We all would like to be loved and have compassion shown to us but how often do we do that for ourselves? In this article, I'll be exploring self-compassion and self-love and how both can enrich your life.
Phrases such as “you must love yourself before expecting to love you”, “you've got to love yourself first” I've been expressed Countless times and in many articles. Whilst it may sound like you've heard it all before there is a reason that these phrases are said and still resonate The idea of self-love may come across as corny to some and narcissistic to others. Practising self-love is neither of these things. Developing love for ourselves enables us to thrive in so many ways. Loving ourselves is necessary for our well being. The same can be said for creating self-compassion.
People who able to practice self-love and self-compassion are more resilient, less prone to anxiety and stress and have improved health outcomes.
Across psychological research self-love and self-compassion can sometimes be used interchangeably, However, there are some subtle differences.
What is self-love?
…self-love is “a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth” (Khoshaba, 2012).
Self- love is not just a feeling or acknowledging that you love yourself it is the practices that support your mind, body and soul every day. For me, self-care and self-love are the same thing. You start caring for yourself, you start showing yourself the love you give to others and you look after your needs. This is not about being selfish it is about truly connecting to who you are and allowing yourself to be nourished and to thrive every single day. It is a tool that has been proven to help support the management of stress and anxiety and help to build resilience.
What is self-compassion?
Compassion is all about the awareness of the suffering of others and wishing to stop that suffering so when we're talking about self-compassion it is about doing that for ourselves
Researchers, such as Germer and Neff, have linked three main elements to self-compassion:
- A sense of common humanity
Self-kindness - is about how we treat ourselves when we fall or fail or do not feel like we’ve lived up to our dreams and being understanding towards ourselves in those moments.
Common humanity - is all about recognising that we are imperfect and then we're not alone in things that we find challenging or the idea that it's only you that is suffering, this is only you that is experiencing this feeling. This can leave you very isolated and lonely and not knowing that others share those same thoughts and feelings as you. Imperfection is more normal than anything else. It is part of being human.
Mindfulness - it's not about ignoring any pain or upset that you feel it's about providing a compassionate response to those emotions. It's about acknowledging the need to sometimes comfort yourself before you go into action
By bringing in self love and self compassion into your life and daily activities you can change how you respond to difficult situations. It helps alter your perspective and enables you to bounce back in times of adversity.
5 ways to practice self-compassion and self-love
Listen to how you talk to yourself
In those moments when you fail or do not meet your expectations, think about how you speak to yourself and the words you use. For example, calling yourself stupid when you've made a mistake think about whether you would say this to your friend.
Change the inner conversation
When practising kindness it's about changing the nature of our inner conversation. To leave out judgement and anger in moments where we may not have lived up to our expectations
No more rabbit holes
When you're practising self -compassion it helps you stop going down that rabbit hole of worries - “it's all about me”, nobody else has these problems”
“I am the only one suffering”
It helps you to recognise that others do have these experiences too and that you can be connected to others because you share these experiences – you are not alone.
Acknowledge emotions before taking intentional action
Acknowledge that you're upset, angry or you're sad. Sit down lick those wounds but pick yourself up again and then start to change and if at that moment you don't feel great about things that's okay. Self- compassion comes in to say we all have times we don't feel great, we all have times when we fall and fail but we treat ourselves with that compassion. We care about our own suffering just as much as we would care about somebody else’s and with mindfulness we don't stay in those negative emotions or wallow we deal with the difficult feelings and give them space but then move through them.
Create your rituals and behaviours that support your well-being – from exercise to calling a friend, find things that you can do which enable you to take care of yourself.
Taking the time to add these into your life to thrive, respond differently when faced with adversity and experience different outcomes. A good place to start is just by being kinder to yourself.