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How to be more compassionate to yourself

24 Oct 2018
Treating yourself with kindness, tolerance and forgiveness can have a big impact on your mental health

There’s one person who’ll be with you for every moment of your life with – you. Being more loving to yourself can have a huge impact on your wellbeing. Some of the benefits of self-compassion can include:

  • better self-esteem

  • more resilience

  • more connection

  • improved moods

  • less fear of failure.

Sounds pretty good, right? Self-compassion involves supporting ourselves, remembering we’re not alone, and noticing what we’re thinking, feeling and doing.

If you’re going through a tough a time, loving yourself might sound easier said than done. It's especially hard when you're comparing ourselves to others. But when you’re distressed, little bit of kindness to yourself can make a huge difference.

It’s important to remember that self-compassion isn’t the same as selfishness (where people put others below them) or self-pity (where people feel like they’re powerless and the world is against them). When we’re compassionate to ourselves it’s a lot easier to be compassionate to others. The reverse is also true.

Self-compassion is something we can practice and get better at over time. Here are some ways to work on loving yourself.

 

Look after yourself

Self-compassion isn't just something you do in your head. Doing practical stuff to care for yourself feels great and makes the thinking and feeling parts a lot easier.

Being compassionate to yourself means supporting your mind and body. The top ways to do this are:

Comfort yourself

Going through a hard time? Think of a person who it’s easy to imagine being kind to, like a child, a good friend or a pet. If you were comforting them, you’d probably be:

  • patient

  • accepting

  • nurturing

  • protecting

  • tolerant

  • supportive.

It’s possible to be like that with yourself as well. Try comforting yourself like you’d comfort someone you love.

If someone who loved you no matter what was here right now, how would they help you? What would they to say? What would they do? It’s pretty cool that you can say and do a lot of these things for yourself.

Remember there are other people who have experienced similar stuff to what you’re going through now, and have gotten through it.

 

Talk kindly to yourself

The way we talk about ourselves in our heads can be pretty harsh. In fact, we’re often meaner than we ever would be to other people.

We often have unreasonable demands about what we have to do and who we have to be. Maybe you believe that you have to get a particular job or grade, and that if you don’t, you’re fundamentally not okay.

The truth is you’re a human being, and you’re worthy of love just as you are. Try replacing harsh words that cut you down with kind words that build you up. What do you want to hear? Practice saying those words when you can. It might feel funny at first, but you’ll get better and better at it over time.

You might like to write down some of the things you say to yourself that aren't so nice and then rewrite them into something more positive. Or, write a list of positive things about yourself and say them to yourself each morning/night. Thinking of nice things other people have told you might help you get started.

Another good idea idea is to write down things about yourself that you're thankful for. E.g. "I'm grateful that my legs carry me throughout the day" rather than "I don't like the look of my legs."

Forgive yourself

We all make mistakes, and it can feel bad when we do. But beating ourselves up about our mistakes isn’t fair and makes things harder. One big part of self compassion is forgiving yourself for the ways you’ve harmed other people and your self.

The ways you might have made things harder for yourself could include:

  • not believing in yourself

  • taking alcohol or other drugs in harmful or risky ways

  • doing things in habitual, unhelpful ways (eg. gaming, gambling, risky sex or looking at porn)

  • not looking after your health

  • pushing yourself too hard

  • avoiding thing or procrastinating

  • self-harm

  • isolating yourself off from other people

  • being too harsh to yourself.


Remember, you’re human, and all humans are trying to avoid suffering. A lot of the hurtful things you did were only attempts feel better that didn’t work out in the long run.

Give yourself permission to get off your back and let yourself move on. You did the best you could with what you had at the time.

You might like to write a letter to yourself saying why you deserve forgiveness, and list the things you’re grateful for and admire in yourself.

Another option is to look in the mirror and make eye contact with yourself. Tell the person that you’re sorry for the ways you’ve hurt them, and that it’s okay. Then tell them some of the things you like about them and the ways you’re proud of them.

Would you like someone to support you get better at being kind to yourself? Get in touch with your local headspace centre today.

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