Give Yourself a Break: The Power of Self-Compassion

Are you super-critical of yourself? Do you set high standards for yourself to meet?  Do you believe you should punish yourself for your shortcomings rather than treat yourself kindly?  If you are like this, how can you change your thinking? A good place to start is to offer yourself self-compassion.

Research shows that accepting our imperfections and giving ourselves a break may lead to better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion tend to be happier and more optimistic and have less depression and anxiety.

Those who don’t like themselves often feel that they don’t deserve their own kindness and compassion. However, we can extend compassion to ourselves even without necessarily liking ourselves. Self-compassion is the ability to relate to the emotional state of oneself. Self-compassion stands alone and is given freely without limitations. While self-compassion suspends judgment, it encourages us to see ourselves honestly and it is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lowered standards.

Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal failures are part of the shared human experience. By offering yourself compassion, you acknowledge and forgive, rather than ignore or criticize, your own suffering, difficulties, and personal shortcomings.

Self-compassion is founded on self-kindness. Instead of condemning ourselves and our mistakes, we try to understand and accept our shortcomings and negative emotions. Then, we actively offer comfort and sympathy to ourselves instead of criticism.

Self-compassion has the added element of wanting to alleviate or reduce suffering. By extending this determination to help yourself feel better, you will naturally begin to treat yourself more kindly and gently. Offering compassion to yourself can help you distance yourself from destructive self-criticism. Many find that once they begin to consistently offer themselves self-compassion, they begin to escape the damaging effects of self-criticism. As a result, they begin to be more comfortable with themselves and they begin to like themselves more.

Research studies show that self-compassionate individuals experience greater psychological health, including well-being, happiness, optimism, social connections, and emotional resilience, than those who do not extend compassion to themselves. Those who score high on self-compassion are also less likely to experience self-criticism, depression, anxiety, thought suppression, and perfectionism.

Self-compassion can be developed by anyone. By deliberately establishing a practice of extending good will toward ourselves, especially during times of suffering, we can reverse old habits and develop self-compassion. Research has also shown that self-compassion can be heightened by acting compassionately toward others. Taking the opportunity to support other people can also make you feel better about what you’re going through.

Give yourself a break and offer yourself self-compassion. Break your life-long habit of self-criticism and reap the benefits of increased happiness, reduced stress, and improved psychological health.

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