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Something most of us have in common is self-judgment. We teach our kids to be kind to others, but we are not so kind to ourselves. Think about it! When is the last time you asked yourself, “How do I talk to myself?”
Neuroscience research on self-compassion has grown throughout recent decades and has taught us that treating yourself with kindness is one of the most effective ways to boost your mood. It is incredibly efficacious in helping us learn, feel less anxious and depressed, and reach our goals faster. Yet, by adolescence, most of us default to shame and self-criticism the moment we make a mistake or feel inadequate. We define ourselves by a behavior and let it represent who we are as a whole. When we speak to ourselves in a negative way, it releases stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol), but when we speak nicely to ourselves, it releases pain-relieving and ‘happy’ hormones (endorphins and dopamine).
Self-compassion is not akin to self-esteem or ignoring our personal inadequacies, failures, or foolish actions. Self-compassion does not involve self-evaluations or social comparisons. Rather, self-compassion requires self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. These components mutually interact to create a frame of mind that is self-compassionate. Self-esteem is great when you are doing well, but it does not do us justice when we are not doing well. Self-compassion is always there for us – when we are doing well and when we are suffering.
Being caring and understanding with oneself.
Recognizing all humans are imperfect, fail, and make mistakes.
Being aware of one’s present moment experience in a clear and balanced manner so you don’t ignore or ruminate on disliked aspects of self or life.
Being harshly critical or judgmental of self.
Believing you are the only human with flaws.
Defining your entire self form one disliked aspect of the self or life.
Self-compassion is a skill and requires practice. You have probably spent close to a lifetime practicing self-judgment, so understand that building the skill of self-compassion will take consistency and patience.
Here are 4 steps for developing a self-compassionate mindset: