Self-compassion is one of our most potent resources for handling our feelings and enhancing our health. When we can be kind and understanding towards ourselves, even amid challenging circumstances, we open the door to greater resilience, happiness, and peace of mind. Self-compassion also allows us to let go of perfectionism and unhealthy comparisons. Instead of beating ourselves up for falling short, we can learn to accept our imperfections and work towards making positive changes in our lives. Practising self-compassion can be life changing. It helps us to feel more connected, supported, and empowered. It paves the way for a more meaningful connection with us, one built on love and acceptance rather than self-criticism and condemnation. Self-compassion is a gateway to long-term fulfilment in all its forms: joy, contentment, and happiness. Self-compassion is a disposition toward kindness and acceptance of oneself in times of distress. It is a way of showing yourself the same compassion and care that you would offer to others. When we are self-compassionate, we permit ourselves to be human. We allow ourselves to make mistakes, feel pain, and be imperfect without judgement.
Self-compassion has been shown to have many benefits. Self-compassionate people have increased levels of well-being, happiness, and life satisfaction and also report lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Furthermore, self-compassion has been linked with increased motivation, as self-compassionate people are more likely to see their failures as temporary setbacks instead of permanent flaws. Finally, self-compassion has been shown to boost physical health, and Self-compassionate people have more robust immune systems and are more likely to care for their bodies. Overall, self-compassion is a powerful tool that can help us to lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
Self-compassion is essential to many religious and spiritual traditions, including Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text, urges us to “have compassion for all beings, for they are all struggling in their way.” The Upanishads, another key Hindu text, teach that “the self is not to be loved for its own sake, but the sake of others.” In other words, we are called to love ourselves not in a selfish or egotistical way but in a way that enables us to better care for and serve others. Self-compassion is an integral part of Hinduism because it helps us to develop two essential qualities: empathy and altruism. Empathetic one can put themselves in the shoes of another, experiencing what they are going through emotionally and mentally. Altruism is the unselfish concern for the welfare of others. These two qualities are essential for our mental and emotional health and for creating a more compassionate world. In Hinduism, self-compassion is seen as a critical virtue. It is believed that we can become more compassionate towards others by developing self-compassion. Hindus believe that one can better care for others by caring for oneself. This belief is based on the principle of ahimsa, which is the practice of nonviolence. Self-compassion is seen as a way to achieve ahimsa. By loving and accepting oneself, one can avoid causing harm to others.
There are many ways we can develop self-compassion, such as through meditation, mindfulness, and self-reflection. By practising self-compassion, we can learn to be more accepting of ourselves and our imperfections. We can also become more forgiving towards ourselves when we make mistakes. In turn, this can lead us to be more compassionate towards others. The benefits of self-compassion are well-documented, but it can be hard to put into practice. If you struggle to show yourself some compassion, here are a few tips to get you started.
Think of yourself as a friend and have a conversation with yourself: How do you talk to your friends when you are going through a tough time? Chances are, you are gentle and understanding. You do not tell them they are worthless or should they forget it. So why not extend the same courtesy to yourself? The next time you feel down, try talking to yourself as if you were your best friend. It might feel strange at first, but it can make a difference.
Acknowledge your feelings: One of the most significant barriers to self-compassion is denying or suppressing our emotions. We tell ourselves that we should not be feeling this way or snap out of it. When we act this way, though, we just hurt our feelings over time. Try not to ignore or suppress your feelings the next time you feel down. Don’t try to change your feelings; accept them as they are. This does not mean wallowing in self-pity and acknowledging that what you are experiencing is valid and normal under the circumstances. Once you do this, moving on and taking care of yourself will be easier.
Be kinder to yourself in your thoughts: One way we tend to sabotage our well-being is by being incredibly harsh with ourselves in our thoughts. We beat ourselves up for every little mistake or shortcoming, dwelling on all the ways we could have done better. This kind of thinking does nothing but make us feel bad about ourselves, which is not very helpful when we are trying to improve our situation! Instead of being your worst critic, try practising self-kindness in your thoughts. When negative thoughts come up, reframe them more compassionately. For example, instead of thinking I cannot believe I messed this up again, I am so stupid to try telling myself Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. I did my best, given the circumstances, and I will learn from this. It might seem small, but these thought shifts can significantly affect how you feel about yourself.
Accepting and forgiving your fallibility is a necessary element of being human. Self-forgiveness makes it far simpler to put the past in the rear-view mirror and go forward. Instead of punishing oneself, viewing your errors as teaching moments can be good. Bear in mind that you’re giving it your all at the moment.
Accepting yourself as you are: This one can be tough, but it is so important. We live in a society that is constantly telling us that we need to change to be happy and prosperous. But the truth is, you are already perfect just the way you are. Accepting your flaws and all is a significant act of self-compassion.
Do something you enjoy: Lastly, do not forget to make time for what you want! It’s easy to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of our lives when we’re depressed. Keep in mind that despite the difficulties, life is still rewarding. You should make time daily to engage in pleasurable activities, whether reading, listening to music, or simply hanging out with loved ones. This will help you keep things in perspective and remind you that there’s still beauty in the world.
Self-compassion has the power to change our lives. It is the ability to be kind and understanding towards ourselves, especially when we are experiencing difficult times. When we are self-compassionate, it allows us to heal our wounds, forgive our mistakes, and move forward more easily. We give ourselves the care and support that we need to heal and thrive. Self-compassion is a skill that we can learn and practice. It requires us to be mindful of our thoughts and emotions and to respond to ourselves with kindness, understanding, and love. The more we cultivate self-compassion, the more resilient we become in facing challenges. We also start to see our mistakes and shortcomings in a more forgiving light, which allows us to learn from them and move on. It can also motivate us to make positive changes in our lives and to become our best selves. By understanding the origins of self-compassion, we can better appreciate its value in our lives.
The writer is the Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK