Accepting oneself with all your flaws is part of being mentally healthy. However, often survivors are their own worst critics picking themselves apart and holding themselves back from experiencing life to the fullest.
This article will focus on self-compassion and how to become more self-accepting.
A Refresher: What is Self-Compassion?
According to the website, self-compassion.org written by Dr. Kristin Neff, “Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself as you would your best friend. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop telling yourself, ‘this is difficult right now,’ how can I comfort and care for myself?”
Let’s unpack that definition.
First, how often have you oppressed yourself when you failed or saw something you didn’t like in yourself? Instead of hating yourself or treating yourself with disdain, self-compassion occurs when you give yourself room to fail.
It is crucial to understand that everyone has days when they are not working on all thrusters. Indeed, there are some days when most people would love to start over or avoid the day altogether.
The difference is that people who are self-critical harp on their problems, brooding on them as failures of their character, and those who are accepting of themselves do not.
Ignoring the pain of what has happened to you only makes matters worse. Instead, try allowing yourself to heal by admitting you are having a difficult time.
Where Does Self-Compassion Originate?
Self-compassion has its origins in childhood when we felt accepted by our parents. Research has shown that we cannot formulate a clear sense of self before eight. That leaves us utterly dependent on caretakers to show us how to behave toward ourselves.
If caregivers are unwilling or unable to send us the correct messages that their children are acceptable, the kids will become ambivalent toward themselves. Otherwise stated, the positive or negative regard children are shown by their parents is often based on how they behave. The adults teach their kids that because they don’t always behave well; they are unacceptable as people.
As adults, these children grow up showing the following symptoms or signs.
They are highly critical of themselves
Downplay their positive qualities and successes
Think they are inferior
Conduct negative self-talk
Avoid crediting themselves for their achievements
Take the blame for things that go wrong
Feel out of control
Cannot receive or believe compliments given to them
If you feel and think like the list above, you will probably not show yourself the compassion you deserve.
The Vital Step of Becoming More Self-Accepting
To learn to be self-compassionate, it is critical to work on accepting yourself just as you are today. Low self-acceptance is either the result of or cause of mental health issues. Therefore, learning to accept yourself is vital.
Self-acceptance means you are at peace with both your accomplishments and your failures. Having self-accepted, you will realize that being down on yourself slows your life because you cannot look at the bigger picture of where your life is going and that you have had control all along.
Accepting yourself completely is challenging because you usually are critical of yourself when you make a mistake. You judge yourself by your mistakes instead of your accomplishments. It is like blinders are on your eyes that only allow you to see your failures. As a result, you become too cautious, so you don’t make the same mistake twice.
The thought process that you will be super-cautious as the result of a failure is highly detrimental if you are a person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. You may have had a terrible relationship with someone, and now you are terrified you will make the same mistake twice instead of taking what you learned from the experience and choosing better next time.
You might even consider yourself one giant mistake because of what you learned growing up. This is not true. There is nothing of a mistake about you; you belong in the world. Never forget that.
Some Myths of Self-Compassion
As with any other psychological phenomenon, there are many myths surrounding self-compassion.
According to Dr. Kristen Neff, the number one myth about self-compassion is that it is the same as self-pity. However, many people get it wrong because self-compassion is the cure for self-pity. Self-compassion makes you willing to experience and relate to your difficult feelings with kindness.
The second myth about self-compassion is that showing it to oneself exhibits weakness. This myth is especially prominent among men, but women also suffer from it. There is nothing weak about showing oneself the compassion, dignity, and respect you deserve. In fact, it is a healthy mindset to have. Indeed, research demonstrates that self-compassion is a powerful source of resilience and coping one can have when one goes through a significant life crisis.
Last, you may believe that self-compassion will undermine your helping yourself do better than before. Some believe that a dose of self-criticism will cause you to not meet up to the standards you have set for yourself. This message is easily attributed to how some parents motivate their children. Research clearly shows that treating oneself with self-compassion vastly improves one’s ability to meet goals and succeed.
Treating oneself with self-compassion, i.e., self-love, is not only valuable but life-changing.
Exercises to Grow Self-Compassion
You may wonder by now how to grow in self-acceptance and self-love. The following are tips to aid you in healing your self-compassion deficit.
Become more self-aware. When you have feelings or pain that are controlling your thoughts, do not push them away. Instead, welcome them and then separate yourself from them. Setting your sights on being willing to accept your thoughts and feelings allows you to move toward acceptance of yourself, and thus you will show yourself more self-compassion.
Separating yourself from your feelings and thoughts allows you to examine them more clearly and change your behavior toward yourself.
Learn to celebrate your strengths. When thinking about yourself, ask yourself the following questions:
On what things are people always complimenting you?
What are your talents and outstanding traits?
What accomplishments have you achieved?
Using these questions, you can list your strengths and achievements and then read them often to help you cope when things go south for you. Keep the list handy for when you experience a low point in your life and re-read them over and over to help your brain learn to react positively to the event.
Ending Our Time Together
It isn’t easy, as a survivor, to learn to accept and love yourself. Those old tapes from the past keep playing in your mind telling you that you are worthless, a waste of space, and a failure. However, it can be done with persistence and self-care.
Keep in mind that everyone deserves compassion, including you.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Kristin Neff
“This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself. May I give myself the compassion I need.” – Kristen Neff
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield