Center piece: Understanding Self-Compassion

Compassion is defined as having a sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering or misfortune of others. Most of us, as humans, are our own worst critic. We judge ourselves about everything; appearance, career choice, achievements, relationships and our financial success or failure. We are most familiar with providing ourselves with self-criticism rather than self-compassion. Self-compassion is extending compassionate thoughts and behaviors toward ourselves. This means the need for us to recognize our own suffering and extending kindness towards ourselves to alleviate our own suffering.

Self-compassion has many benefits that contribute to improving our own well-being and mental health. Learning self-compassion means that we have to understand that this knowledge helps us regulate our own emotions. Self-compassion is useful when dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, perfectionism, low self-esteem and self-harm. These kinds of feelings involve excessive self-criticism and negative judgment about ourselves.

Most of us find it easier to extend compassion to others than to learn how to extend the same compassion to ourselves. We, as humans, have been taught lessons early on in life about caring for others and extending love and care to our loved ones. However, we are seldom taught how to provide compassion toward ourselves. For many of us, we are taught that paying attention to our own needs is self-indulgent, selfish and focuses too much on self-pity. This is a difficult mind-set to overcome as adults.

To gain insight into how self-compassionate you are, review the statements below. Agreeing with the statements below indicate that you are more self-critical than self-compassionate.

>>I find it difficult to be kind to myself.

>>When something goes wrong, I blame myself.

>>I am critical of myself when things aren’t going well.

>>I don’t look after myself when I am having a difficult time (as I would care for a friend.)

>>I focus on my thoughts and no one else’s.

>>I get angry or disappointed in myself if I make a mistake.

>>When I am struggling, I don’t treat myself with much kindness.

>>I find it difficult to accept my mistakes and move on.

>>I obsess about things that I don’t like about myself.

>>I criticize myself when I am suffering emotionally.

>>I feel like I struggle or fail at most things.

After taking this quiz, take time and evaluate how many times you have treated yourself or how many opportunities you have missed to treat yourself with self-compassion or if you self-criticized instead.

Reflect over the past day or week and how many opportunities you missed to treat yourself with self-compassion or if you self-criticized instead.

Finally make a plan of things you can do for yourself to take better care of yourself. Identify some things that you may want to do for yourself and plan to make it happen. The question is, how can you care of others if you are not taking care of yourself? When you take time to take care for yourself, you will be more effective in your compassion and help to others.