Be Kind to Yourself: The Power of Self-Compassion
Are you disappointed because you didn’t push harder during your workout? Frustrated with a spouse for the way they do or do not communicate? Or maybe even irritated by the decisions that are being made around you? Many of us have expectations of ourselves and others that drive our emotional experience.
Our core values reflect the way we think things should be in a perfect world. We have internal expectations for the way we should have pushed in the workout, the way a spouse should communicate, or the decisions people should have made. When our reality doesn’t match up with our core values, we can experience emotional discomfort.
Here are a few ways to be more compassionate with others and yourself in those moments:
Be more flexible with your expectations.
If you catch yourself feeling disappointed or frustrated (with yourself or others), try and detect what core value is not being met. Identify what you think should be happening in that moment and consider if you can be more flexible with your expectations. Maybe you still believe things should be a certain way, but you’re able to communicate more effectively about it or not get as frustrated when your expectations aren’t met.
Take a compassion break.
Think of a situation in your life that is difficult and causing you stress. Try and visualize the situation and see if you can feel the emotional discomfort or stress in your body (or maybe you use this technique by noticing it’s happening in the moment). Practice a more compassionate pattern of thinking in that moment by first acknowledging the difficult moment by saying things to yourself like, “this is stress,” “stress is a part of life.” Then practice coaching yourself to be more compassionate by saying things like, “May I be kind to myself,” “May I forgive myself,” or “May I be patient.” Find the words that work for you, and practice using those thoughts in moments where you struggle to be kind to yourself or others.
Write a compassion letter.
Write a letter to yourself describing a difficult situation where you or someone else hasn’t met the mark but use a more compassionate lens. Struggling to look at the situation through a more compassionate lens? Write as if you were talking to a dear friend that is struggling. Remember that no one is perfect, and everyone struggles. Consider how you may improve or cope with this quality when you come across it again. Put the letter away and revisit it later (maybe even when you find yourself needing a compassion boost).
More about self-compassion:
- Infographic: Expectations and Compassion
- Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28-44.
- Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18(9), 1133-1143.