How often do we meet people who are always there to take care of others? They’re the ones who are always just a message away, ready to give support and care. They’re the ones who are hard on themselves for not doing more for the people around them, despite receiving praise for all that they do. They’re the ones who care so much about others but do nothing to take care of themselves.
Kristin Neff, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas, found that people who have a higher level of self compassion, experience less stress and anxiety levels when faced with a threatening situations. Neff describes self compassion as “being kind and understanding toward oneself in instances of pain or failure, rather than being harshly self-critical”.
This sounds amazing, but how can we be compassionate to ourselves, when we’re so used to having that inner critic?
In order to practice self-compassion, we should imagine what we would say to a best friend. Usually, we tend to be kinder and more compassionate towards our best friends, and not towards ourselves. So let’s say we failed at something, such as an exam, what would we say to that friend who failed the same exam? Would we tell them off for not studying, or motivate them and encourage them for the resist? We might even offer to have study dates with them! Would we judge a friend’s emotions, or would we validate them?
Neff goes on to say that self-compassion is not an excuse to avoid goals or to become self-indulgent or vain. Rather, self-compassion can be a strong motivator to keep going forwards, as it pushes a person to alleviate their suffering, to thrive, and to be happy.
Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and identity, 2(2), 85-101