Befriending Yourself – The Art and Practice of Self-Compassion

When we are going through times, whether it’s dealing with the current pandemic, facing financial challenges, or relationship issues, self-compassion can become a very valuable tool for coping with stressful and unsettling situations.

Below, I will be sharing simple and practical exercises to help you soothe and comfort yourself when the going gets tough. 

“Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” – Dr. Kristin Neff

1. Make yourself feel safe

Imagine a seven-year-old child in need who is anxious and scared. How would you soothe and comfort her? What words, gestures, and tone of voice would you use? Now, take a few deep breaths and talk to yourself in the same way: “Everything is going to be fine. You are safe. Nothing bad is going to happen to you!”

2. Observe your thoughts

Explore your thought patterns and the stories you are telling yourself with gentle curiosity. Ask yourself: “Is this really true?” Be mindful of ‘black or white’ thinking and gently reroute your attention back to the present moment and your breath.

3. Have your own back

Self-compassion means being your own cheerleader and protector. It means witnessing your struggles without any judgment and being understanding. Imagine a strong, loving Elder gently placing her hand on your shoulder and reassuring you: “You’ve got this. You are stronger than you think.

4. Let go of judgment about yourself and your emotions

Self-compassion is allowing yourself all your feelings without adding guilt or shame. Emotions are simply messengers. Sometimes we get triggered, and old wounds from the past get “scratched.” This is normal and a part of being human. Allow yourself to lovingly embrace painful feelings. Don’t push them away. 

Practice Dr. Neff’s Self-Compassion Break:

Put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest.  

Say to yourself: 

  • This is a moment of suffering.
  • Ouch. This hurts.
  • This is stress.
  • Suffering is a part of life. Other people feel this way.
  • I’m not alone. We all struggle in our lives.

Say to yourself:

  • May I be kind to myself.
  • May I give myself the compassion that I need
  • May I learn to accept myself as I am.
  • May I forgive myself.
  • May I be strong.

5. Practice mirror work

When you are feeling anxious, stressed, or worried, stand in front of the mirror, gently hold your face and tell yourself: “You’ve got this!” Give yourself the emotional reassurance you need at this moment. 

6. Give yourself unconditional support

If you didn’t receive ideal mothering or safe nurturing, it’s not too late. Self-compassion can mean “re-mothering” and nurturing yourself with loving care and kindness. Supporting your “inner child” and giving her your full support can help heal the “mother wound.” 

Self-Compassion can become the full expression of self-love and self-acceptance now that you are an adult. It means being true to who you are, allowing all your feelings without judgment, speaking your truth, and being YOU, unapologetically.

7. Self-compassion exercise: Journaling

Each night before you go to bed, write down three things you are grateful for and three things you are proud of. We all do many things well every day and take them for granted. Once you start acknowledging your strengths and accomplishments, your sense of well-being will shift. Show yourself some love. Wish yourself well.

“Talk to yourself like you would talk, to someone you love.”- Brené Brown

8. Self-Compassion Exercise: Deep breathing and labeling

Next time you are anxious, upset, or stressed, and feel like eating to cope and take the edge off, sit for a few minutes and pause. Close your eyes and put your hands over your heart. Take seven deep gentle breaths in and out. Welcome the feeling and let it be there. Give it a name, label it, and describe where you are feeling the sensation in your body. In my experience, the intensity of the emotion diminishes once it has been honored and acknowledged. 

9. Stand your ground and speak your truth

The greatest gift you can give yourself is allowing yourself to be YOU and standing in your own light. Self-compassion means speaking your truth and honoring your feelings. Next time you feel like avoiding a confrontation out of fear, try this empowerment exercise:

Gently place your hand over your heart and give yourself permission to speak your mind. Your feelings are valid. Start by writing down the things you’d like to say. Set an intention to honor your truth, and practice letting go of the outcome.

What matters is that you are true to your Self. Whatever we say to others will be filtered through their unique personal lens. We are not responsible for another person’s feelings or reactions. What matters is our intention behind it. If truth is spoken from the heart, the other can hear it. They may not like it, and that’s okay. It’s not our job to process the feelings of others. We are only responsible for our own.

I hope that some of these practices will help ease emotional pain and fill your inner self-love reservoir with love and compassion ~ Petra

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