Nowadays the term self-care is thrown around all the time, making most of us feel guilty of not being able to pursue something that others find so easy. This very term “self-care” perplexed me for a while as I wondered why it is so easy for some people to carve out time for themselves and yet others like me to truggle with the very thought. For a very long time, I could not seem to enjoy“me time” without it being wrapped in guilt. Over the years, as I worked with survivors of trauma I journeyed into concepts such as mindfulness, self-compassion and kindness. Concepts that not only transformed my clinical work but also changed my life into one that is more meaningful and valued. Today I’m going to share with you my thoughts on self-compassion; both from a professional and personal perspective. Whether you struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, stress or self-worth or are someone just looking for something new to add in your life, incorporating a self-compassion practice will only benefit you.
To understand Self Compassion, I would highly recommend looking into the work of Kristen Kneff, a psychology professor who coined the movement. In her words “self-compassion means treating yourself with the same kind of kindness, care, compassion, as you would treat those you care about—your good friends, your loved ones”. Her work is not only supported by therapists such as me but also by research which shows similar effectivity of self-compassion interventions in the regulation of health behaviours to other popular behaviour change techniques.
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”Louise L. Hay
In practice, some clients easily embrace therapy sessions, do their homework, apply strategies and reach their goals, while others continue to struggle despite the relentless effort. Of course, there are many factors that dictate the therapy outcome and one I feel is at the core is self-compassion. My experience has taught me that the more self-compassionate one is, the better they connect to themselves and in consequence want the best for themselves.
Now please don’t confuse self-esteem with self-compassion. The former is important but it’s not akin to the latter. Self-compassion requires you to become self-aware, to acknowledge your suffering, instead of pushing it or avoiding it. You will need to practice statements such as: what do I need right now, what am I feeling right now, I am not alone, I am trying my best, it’s okay I am enough. This may sound a little fluffy to many, and it did to me when I first ventured into this journey. But I invite you to think about how you respond to those you care for. For you to fully support them, to hold them through difficulty, to make sure they don’t give up you have to be able to connect to them in a meaningful way. The more you care the more you end up doing. Why do we not apply the same principles to our selves? How do you expect to feel better, stronger, worth, valued, if you don’t tend to your own emotions and needs? The reality is that the more you connect to yourself, the better equipped you are to respond to yourself and take care of your needs.
Why does self-compassion help? The easy answer is the more you fill your cup (attend to your needs) the more you’re able to attend to the needs of others. After all, isn’t that why most of us want to function optimally. To be a better mom, wife, daughter, friend, neighbour, worker…..
The other answer which many find harder to accept is so that you can increase your sense of self-worth, enjoy yourself, be proud of yourself, accept yourself, give yourself a break, and realize that you are trying your best.
How has Self Compassion changed me!
- I am more aware of my needs
- I know when I need to pause and take a break
- I know when I have had enough and set boundaries
- I am able to do things with more meaning
- I value time, people, places
- I am more grateful for the little things about myself
- I am realizing “I am enough”
- I am happier with me
A Take Home Message!
Acknowledge your emotions, tend to your needs. The more you validate yourself the better able you are to be empathetic to others. You are worthy. Forgive yourself. Be grateful to yourself for trying. Accept yourself you are trying; you are not perfect no one is.
Reena is a Registered Psychotherapist who treats individuals, couples, and groups for various issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationship, and parenting issues. Her approach to therapy is holistic, integrative, and trauma-informed.