How can we learn compassion for ourselves?

People offer compassion to others easily but what about self-compassion? Being compassionate to ourselves means accepting our mistakes so we can be more present with ourselves, practicing self-care, nurturing ourselves, and being sensitive and understanding about our own suffering so we can heal. We would do all of this for someone else, but why are we not doing it for ourselves?

Compassion motivates people to help others experiencing emotional, physical or mental pain. We want to alleviate the suffering of another person, but when it comes to ourselves, we suppress our own suffering and pain. Expressing compassion can improve someone’s life, just as self-compassion can improve our own life.

Some think self-compassion is a sign of weakness, while others feel selfish to be thinking about themselves instead of others. It is okay to recognize our feelings and emotions, hold on to them, and take care of ourselves during times of stress, anxiety, uncertainty or trauma. Too often, we dismiss our emotions and suppress the feelings that arise during and after a trauma situation. Listen to your internal voice that is saying you need a dose of self-compassion. Let it speak louder than the voice that is telling you this is negative thinking.

You can find space for self-compassion, the same way you find time and space for compassion. We all need that balance. Suppressing unwanted feelings can impact your mental health. Suppression after suppression can lead to depression.

So, how can we learn self-compassion?

  • Begin by making space in your mind to fully feel your emotions in the moment.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Allow yourself to feel your feelings (eg, anger, fear, care, panic, grief, play and lust) and embrace all of them, even the uncomfortable ones.
  • Practice self-care, deliberately seeking out activities or practices that reenergize you and help you relax.
  • Pause, take a step back, breathe and mindfully embrace your feelings for that moment.
  • Push aside the distractions of the moment that are not allowing you to connect with yourself.
  • Make comforting statements that express self-love, acceptance and positivity.
  • Be okay with embracing imperfection.

Self-compassion involves a mindset that combats anxiety, doubt and unrealistic expectations. Being compassionate to ourselves requires connection and self-love. It involves learning to accept and embrace our imperfections and view our less stellar qualities as opportunities to learn and grow. It is a worthwhile shift that takes consistency and practice, but ultimately helps clear emotional clutter and creates space for deeper connections with ourselves and the world around us.

Self-compassion often is not nurtured in childhood, hence, it may not come naturally for many of us. It must be learned and consistently practiced. I work with patients to help make this happen. I help them notice how emotions show up as sensations in the body, encourage them to drop the narrative, and learn how to be with their emotions in a healthy way instead of suppressing them.

Let’s start healing ourselves, rebalance our lives and make room for self-compassion.