Self-compassion, self-love or loving kindness is a tough one to grasp, when you have always been your worst critic.
I discovered self-compassion only a few years ago, when doing a free mindfulness course on Future Learn. To me, self-compassion is to give yourself understanding, love and self-acceptance, it is about turning off that critical inner voice and listening to that compassionate understanding voice inside you. It feels good to be compassionate towards your self and it really isn’t too difficult, but does take regular practice. Unfortunately, I don’t always practice this on a regular basis, but it is on my daily good habits wishlist.
What is Self-Compassion?
Feeling compassion for anyone is to understand and empathise with that person, to take it a step further you may show that person compassion by talking empathetically with them, showing them you understand their pain, trying to help them or simply giving them a great big hug. At times when we are feeling low, there is nothing like a genuine hug, it tells us that the person hugging us understands our feelings and above all accepts us, this can give us great comfort in that moment. So, to be able to give ourselves that kind of comfort when we most need it, is quite something, unfortunately, we often don’t do that because we have learned to punish ourselves by criticizing either what we have done or haven’t or simply shaming ourselves for our flaws or feelings.
Benefits of Self-Compassion
The feeling of self-love is compounding, it continues to grow and makes you feel relaxed, calm, and self accepting. Would you treat others as badly as you treat yourself? No, so why punish yourself with your negative self talk. The thing is, when you practice self-compassion, you find yourself being more compassionate towards others, so they benefit too. Once your physical body is taking care of, one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing is to practice self-compassion.
My favourite practice is mindful meditation specifically for self-compassion, guided ones are the best for beginners, doing meditations really helps you to focus on love and compassion towards yourself. We are human and therefore all make mistakes, self-compassion helps you accept those mistakes regardless of what the consequences were and only by accepting how you feel can you move on to the self-love part.
Apps are a great way to start, You Tube is also great for free meditations, both guided and non-guided and there are plenty specifically for self-compassion, some are short, 10 minutes for example, others are 9 hours for whilst you are asleep, these are subliminal. My favourite Apps are Calm and Headspace, there are some free guided meditations if you don’t want to subscribe to them or just want to test them out.
If you are in a bad place right now, I recommend practicing daily, even for just 5 minutes, but preferably 10. If you have no time at all, do a sleep meditation, everyone has to sleep. Even a daily minute of self-love practice is better than none.
I include self-care as a practice for self compassion, self care makes you feel good about yourself and it can include anything that makes you feel good. I have regular self-care days which include a long soak in the bath, usually with Epsom Salts (for detoxing) or Himalayan Salts (for relaxation) which leaves you with the softest skin. I make sure I soak between 20-40 minutes to absorb the benefits of the salts. Whilst I am lying there so long I do some mindful meditation.
Other things I do are giving myself a facial; double cleansing, face mask, essential oils (patchouli) this is my favourite and its good for aging skin too. I don’t know what it is about this oil, but for me it gives me a huge sense of self-love and calm, funnily enough when I first used I wasn’t keen on it, but it is my favourite now. If I want to feel good after a bath I put this on my face, neck and chest, it instantly makes me feel safe and cosy. Everyone is different, so trial some, you can get 10ml bottles to try them out, find the oil that works for you, do your research though, some oils are not recommended to put directly on your skin without a carrier oil.
I will body brush, do my nails, deep condition my hair with ‘Bleach London Silver Conditioner‘ by leaving it on at least 1 hour, usually whilst I am in the bath, lather myself in my favourite vegan ‘Lavera‘ body lotion and put something comfortable on, then sit and read a book. I would do these things everyday if I could, but as you know when your working you simply don’t have the time, but make sure you do at least once a week, your mind will thank you for it.
Journaling helps with self-awareness, thus bringing out the empathy and understanding you need to be compassionate towards yourself.
I love to write things down, if I am struggling with something, if I am angry with myself or others, I tend to write down my feelings, but I try to do it from a sympathetic perspective. Rather than express just my anger, I will write down how I feel and then try to write something about understanding why that person did or said what they said, not to justify their actions but to understand them. This really helps me to not hold on to negative emotions, so that when I see that person again I feel more compassionate towards them, which in turn makes me feel good. Anger hurts ourselves, more than anyone else.
We all suffer in one way or another, we can’t always escape what life throws at us, the best we can do is accept unavoidable suffering in order to minimize it, practicing self-compassion is one way of doing this. Go love yourself, you deserve it!