Why Is It Important To Develop Self – Compassion?
We spend our entire lives with one person. The journey with this person is guaranteed till the end, in sickness and in health, through every roadblock and success. Wouldn’t we want to make this relationship a thriving one, considering it is so long term and constant? Shouldn’t we make every effort to understand this person, what they like and dislike, how they feel around certain people and situations, how they want to feel loved? Now what if I told you that this is the relationship that is most often neglected, put on the back burner, almost forgotten and not given the attention and care it deserves only because this is the relationship we have with ourselves?
Even though everyone in life is temporary the only surety we have is that we will be standing for ourselves, and yet we are the harshest in criticizing ourselves. While we get so caught up in building romantic relationships and friendships we forget that the most important bond we will ever have is with our own mind and body. The voice in our head is our constant companion and on days we feel alone, it will always be our saving grace. Unfortunately, most people are unable to build a positive relationship with that voice, making it harsh and critical. Any mistake is accounted to being a ‘bad person’, an action that doesn’t live up to expectations means that “I am not good enough” and a fight with another person adds up to “I am unlovable”. In the long run, these perceptions we hold about ourselves and our abilities show up in our actions and behaviour impacting our well-being and happiness. However, adapting this self- talk to be considerate towards ourselves is not easy because it is often deep- rooted in childhood experiences and beliefs we have learned growing up. This is where self- compassion comes in. While we have to go down a long and rocky road to change our core values and beliefs, self- compassion is the way to lessen the impact on our lives by being kind and understanding with ourselves. It essentially means giving ourselves the room to make mistakes, while accepting that we are not perfect thereby ridding us of the high expectations we place upon ourselves. In a nutshell, it means to acknowledge our humanness and understand that life may not always go the way we want, we will fall short and err, we will have limitations and there may even be days when we will not be proud of what we have done but all this is just a part of the human experience. Just like us, everyone will have days like this and understanding that is being compassionate and gentle both with yourself and others. Self- compassion makes you understand that every failure is a chance to improve and grow, because your value is not attached to that failure.
While many people find it easy to be accepting, empathetic and loving towards others, they often find it hard to extend the same to themselves. Even though this is common, if we are unable to direct the same emotions within, especially when we fail, then it is actually counterproductive and defeats the purpose of doing it for others. Some also find it difficult to be compassionate towards themselves out of the fear of accepting and acknowledging weakness and indulging in self- pity. Self- compassion is often likened to an oxygen mask announcement when we sit in an airplane. Only once we are able to successfully put our oxygen mask first will we able to probably extend that same help to others. So how can one extend compassion towards themselves? It all starts with amending our critical inner voice. Modifying the way we speak to ourselves is the first step in changing the way we relate to ourselves and challenge the irrational voice in our brain. Becoming aware and catching yourself when you are too harsh to judge your actions while at the same time speaking to yourself like you would speak to a friend is key to developing your inner conversations and making your mind a healthy space.
While this requires a lot of discipline and breaking years of a self- destructive pattern, it is important to utilize this technique in daily life. When you make a mistake during a big presentation, you are unable to meet a deadline in time, you fail a test, or are unable to pass a job interview, it is in these realistic moments that you need to remember that failure is a part of the shared human experience and be kind to yourself. This awareness will not only make you introspect more but research also proves that people who cultivate self- compassion have an overall higher satisfaction from life and use shortcomings as a motivator since they are able to view the situation from a distance without beating themselves up for mistakes. Moreover, developing self- compassion helps people to build what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” in which people understand that there is always potential for growth and hence always strive optimistically to be better. Giving yourself a break to be ‘imperfect’ will not only help you develop authenticity and trust in who you are and what you want, but also make you engage in more self- care and healthy behaviours, forgive yourself more often and have hope in your own potential. In time you will be able to understand that your worth is truly innate and not attached to any event or shortcoming while internalizing realistic expectations from yourself.