What is compassion?
Kristen Kneff has described compassion as “Understanding one’s own pain in a non-judgmental way and seeing suffering as a part of a shared human experience.” We can give compassion, we can also receive compassion, but what we will be looking at today is the importance of self-compassion.
Self-compassion can be broken down into 3 main key elements.
Self-kindness: meaning rather than engaging in judgement and criticism, we treat ourselves as we would treat a friend or a relative. How do you respond when things don’t go to plan? Do you tell yourself you are a failure, or do you comfort yourself and say it is okay?
Being present: meaning we don’t let our thoughts define who we are. This allows us to witness what we are thinking rather than identify with our thoughts. For example, when you say “I failed this exam” is this followed by “I am a failure”?
Common humanity: understanding that we are all humans, we all suffer and struggle but rather isolating ourselves because of it, we can say to ourselves “I am only human, and we all go through similar situations”. It can be difficult to remind ourselves that not everyone knows what they are doing all the time, especially with social media only showing the positive sides to everyone’s life.
Recently, science has taken a turn on researching the benefits of self-compassion and the results are promising. In a study done in 2018, only 3 weeks of self-compassion meditations has showed a decrease in body dissatisfaction and body- shame followed by an increase in body appreciation. It was also associated with relieved feelings of guilt when it comes to eating. It has also been linked to lower levels of disordered eating and reduced body image concerns.
So how do we put this into practice?
Step 1. Acknowledge you are having a difficult moment, or you are experiencing a negative emotion. Once we have realised it, we are being in the present, allowing ourselves to stop for a minute before we automatically start the negative self-talk.
Step 2. Remind yourself that suffering is something we all as humans experience and we are not alone. Imagine a friend has shared with you what you are feeling right now. What would you say to them? Now say this this to yourself.
Step 3. Show yourself some kindness. This is where the difficult part comes in, but with some practice you can do it. Tell yourself that you are doing the best you can right now and acknowledge the difficult situation you are in.
Author: Bogomila Tosheva