Self-Compassion: Why is Compassion for Others so Much Easier?
Christina has always cared deeply for others. As a child, she befriended lonely children in her class. She often encouraged her friends to help her make cards and drawings for classmates who were ill. Now Christina works as a social worker for the elderly. One of the things she loves most about her job is that she can provide care and acceptance to those who are in need of compassion.
Christina is also depressed. She feels like she’s not doing enough. Christina is lonely; she tells herself it’s because she isn’t pretty or smart enough to make friends. “If I start wearing my hair differently, or say clever things, or lose a few pounds,” she tells herself, “then I can be happy.” The list of things she wants to change about herself runs on an endless loop through her mind.
Why is it that Christina can extend compassion so easily to others, yet cannot let herself off the hook?
There is a harmful social myth swirling around that makes compassion for others so much easier to access than self-compassion. According to the myth, you must be self-critical before you can succeed. TV commercials and magazine ads sell the idea that there are prerequisites to feeling beautiful. From the carefully manicured social media profiles of your acquaintances, you learn that being successful means looking perfect, throwing wonderful parties, and taking vacations with lots of friends.
Getting online can be a great way to connect with friends and family; however, social media can be addicting because it provides what self-criticism teaches you to crave: regular approval. Although your self-criticisms can feel all-too-real, a whole new set of distant attainments will likely appear once the current standards you’ve set for yourself are met. Approval becomes your only way of evaluating yourself.
The myth of self-improving criticism also fosters the idea that the kindness you extend to others becomes arrogance when turned inward. Within the frame of this harmful funhouse mirror, self-directed shame and regret are mistaken for humility and honesty.
In other words, constant self-evaluation isn’t a tool to help you become who you want to be; rather, it’s often a painful barometer of what and who you aren’t.
Treating yourself with compassion is one of the best ways to stem the tide of self-ascribed
negatives. The results are proven: Self-compassion has been correlated with decreased depression and anxiety, increased well-being, and improved coping skills. Interestingly, self-compassion has also been demonstrated to increase compassion toward others.
Self-compassion allows you to start feeling good about who you are now. It can end the isolation that comes with feeling like you’re never good enough.
What Does Self-Compassion Look Like?
Without self-compassion, you might fight to feel good about yourself by putting others down, ignoring your mistakes, or blaming someone else for a problem. This strategy sometimes works in the short-term, but often keeps you from a fuller and richer sense of peace—a peace that encompasses your entire self, flaws and all.
Self-compassion means taking note of your painful feelings and responding to them with acceptance, not rejection. Rather than pushing through a low point by turning away from what’s bothering you, ask how you can best care for yourself when you’re feeling down.
Pressing pause on the judgments you make about yourself can help you become more attuned to what’s really going on in your life. As it turns out, self-compassion is a more effective motivator than self-criticism. Compassionate, positive thinking decreases stress and increases your energy levels, enabling you to direct your attention to areas of your life that need a little bit of love. Unlike self-criticism, self-compassion allows you to make those changes without feeling like you need to transform who you are as a person.
Are you ready to find your Self-Compassion?
Read more about Learning to Feel Good About Yourself. If you’re ready to take the next step in learning self-compassion, contact one of our counselors for help. Our therapists in Houston, TX can help you or your loved one recover. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to help you!
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