You just broke up with your boyfriend, and aunt Patty gives you the unsolicited and cliched advice to ‘first focus on loving yourself before trying to love someone else.’ You roll your eyes and continue sobbing in your tub of ice cream.
We are sorry to break it to you, but aunt Patty’s advice does make sense. To prove this to you, let’s do a simple exercise.
Think about the concept of ‘love,’ and write down everything that comes to mind.
We guess you didn’t write down ‘self-compassion’ or ‘self-love’ or ‘caring for myself.’
“Self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.” – Kristin Neff
This is the exact problem a lot of us face: we don’t think of ourselves when we think of love. Some of us are even afraid that having self-compassion will make us lazy, complacent and will hold us back from changing things we don’t like about ourselves. We also mistake self-compassion for self-pity.
Research shows the opposite is true: self-compassion promotes motivation and change. We shouldn’t be hard on ourselves when we want to make positive changes.
“Self-compassion is not self-pity. When individuals feel self-pity, they become immersed in their problems and forget that others have similar problems. They ignore their interconnections with others and instead feel that they are the only ones in the world who are suffering. ” – Kristin Neff
You might be wondering if you have enough compassion for yourself. It can be hard to spot signals that you need to boost your self-compassion, that’s why we made a list for you!
1. You criticize yourself all the time
Who’s your worst critic? Surprise: it’s you! If you’re always criticizing yourself, this might be because you have high expectations of yourself. There is nothing wrong with expecting the best of yourself, as long as you can be compassionate when you make mistakes or when life doesn’t go as planned.
2. You can’t forgive yourself for past mistakes
Rehashing your mistakes has everything to do with how our brain works. Your mind has a ‘negativity bias’: it reacts more strongly to negative events. This negativity bias is what causes us to keep reliving our mistakes and place less weight on our successes .
3. You are afraid to make new mistakes
No one is proud of failing. What will other people think of you when you fail? If you are a woman you may take failure extra hard: studies have shown that women are so averse to failure that they don’t apply for jobs unless they feel 100 percent qualified .
4. You let other people treat you badly
Have you ever been in an unhealthy relationship? Did you ever stay in situations that made you feel unworthy and unlovable? You most likely have a lack of self-compassion and self-love.
5. You feel stressed and overwhelmed
When you experience stress and feel overwhelmed, this is probably the result of not taking care of yourself well enough. We all experience stress, but if you don’t care for yourself, it can easily overwhelm you.
6.You don’t have time to have fun
Putting so much pressure on yourself to accomplish things that you have to cancel all the fun in your life, is a recipe for disaster. Pleasure habits are super important for your wellbeing!
7. You feel like you’re the only one with certain problems
If you feel lonely and think you are the only person experiencing certain problems, you can certainly use some more self-compassion.
“A fundamental element of self-compassion is recognition of the common human experience” – Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion
When you feel inadequate or disappointed, remember that we are all in this together. Looking at things in this way is what separates self-pity from self-compassion. Self-compassion helps you remember that everyone experiences pain during difficult times.