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red heart drawn on brown paper torn to reveal the word compassion
By In-house Team, Circle Health Group

Self-compassion and being kind to yourself

We consider the importance self-compassion and take a look at practices that can help you to be kinder to yourself.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is the practice of being kind and understanding towards yourself. Simple as it seems, many people neglect to extend the same compassion and understanding to themselves as they do to other people. It's especially important to be compassionate towards yourself in difficult times, during periods of stress or unfortunate circumstances, or in situations where we fail or feel inadequate.

If something negative happens or you don't do as well in something as you'd hoped, self-compassion can be an invaluable tool to help you through it. It means showing yourself the same warmth, understanding and compassion that you would to anyone else in similar circumstances.

In short, it means you should give yourself a break.

Why is self-compassion important?

There are more benefits to self-compassion than you might expect.

Being kinder to yourself can reduce levels of anxiety and depression as well as improving your ability to deal with these feelings when they arise. Increased self-compassion can also boost your self-esteem.

People with higher self-esteem, who understand their own value, tend to have better relationships with other people. They are also more open to new experiences and to learning new things.

For many, it's something that has to be worked on. Even very compassionate people, who may find it easy to sympathise with others, can struggle to do the same for themselves.

Why is self-compassion so hard?

For some people, self-kindness comes naturally. But for many, it's something that has to be worked on. Even very compassionate people, who may find it easy to sympathise with others, can struggle to do the same for themselves.

There are various reasons why people struggle or are hesitant to practice self-compassion. For example, some people are worried it will make them more vulnerable, while others think it won't work. Others may have been treated badly by others and have normalised this behaviour, reflecting it in their own.

Luckily, self-kindness is something that can be learned. Below are 10 things you can do to improve your own ability to give yourself a break.

10 tips to help boost your self-compassion

Working some or all of these practices into your daily routine can help you get used to being kinder to yourself. Over time, the goal is for self-compassion to become a habit.

1. Think: Would you treat a friend this way?

This is a good place to start. If you are beating yourself up about something you've done or said, or failed to do or say, take a step back and think: Would I treat my friend this harshly if they had done the same?

More often than not, you'll realise that you would be far more forgiving of the same actions in another person.

So, treat yourself as well as you would a friend, and cut yourself some slack.

2. List your qualities

Every day, write down 3-5 things you like about yourself. These can be as big or as small, as deep or as frivolous as you like. It's about you.

Maybe you're a great listener. Maybe you are a talented cook. Perhaps you have great taste in socks. The more compliments you write down, the more you'll come to acknowledge and appreciate your own qualities.

If this feels hard at first, have a friend or family member start the list. You'll be amazed at the things that other people love about you that you never acknowledged in yourself.

3. Positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are phrases or mantras that you repeat to yourself – often to try and instil a feeling or belief. Research shows that, for some people, they can increase positive thoughts.

Some self-compassion related affirmations to try are:

  • I am good enough
  • I have a positive impact on the people around me
  • My feelings are as important as everyone else's

Positive affirmations are quite a personal thing, however, so look online or have a think about what makes sense for you.

Being kind to yourself extends to physical acts, too. Self-care encompasses everything that you do to take care of yourself.

4. Acknowledge and assess self-criticism

Try to be more aware of times when you are critical of yourself. When you catch yourself doing it, pause and think about your feelings. Acknowledge that you are criticising yourself and consider whether this is fair or necessary.

5. Think about what YOU want

Take 10 minutes to think about, or write down, your goals and what you've done so far to work towards them. Make sure they're realistic, and try for a mix of short- and long-term desires.

This can help you to feel in control and to acknowledge your achievements and your worth.

It can also help you to focus back on yourself and what you want, rather than comparing yourself to other people and their goals.

6. Don't compare yourself to others

This is far easier said than done, yet comparing yourself to other people can be hugely detrimental to self-esteem and can really get in the way of self-compassion.

Other people's achievements don't take anything away from your own. More often than not, they're not even things you are trying for, so why be bothered by them?

Remember that everyone has highs and lows, and people who you think of as having it all sorted may well struggle with their own self-esteem. No one has the perfect life.

This is especially true on social media, where we only see a carefully chosen and edited highlight reel.

7. Practice self-care

Being kind to yourself extends to physical acts, too. Self-care encompasses everything that you do to take care of yourself, from brushing your teeth to treating yourself to a new purchase or a nice haircut.

Treating yourself kindly in daily life will reaffirm your value and can boost your self-esteem.

8. Write a letter to yourself

If you're feeling negative emotions towards yourself, try and write them in a letter, addressed to yourself.

Putting things on paper can often put them into perspective, and can make you realise that you deserve more compassion.

9. Accept your imperfections

Rather than trying to banish all your negativity overnight, aim first for a balanced approach, where you see things more objectively. Accepting that no one is perfect is a big part of this.

You are bound to fail at some things. You won't do everything right first time. That's just part of being human.

10. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness and self-compassion can go hand in hand. Mindfulness encourages you to observe your own thoughts, feelings and actions without judgement.

Find out more about mindfulness here.

Still think you need help?

An important element of self-compassion is accepting your own imperfections, and that can include knowing when to ask for help.

If the journey to self-compassion seems like too much to tackle alone, you're not the only one. The way we treat and judge ourselves is something that many people explore in counselling or other forms of therapy.

Don't be reluctant to seek professional help if you need it.

A mental health professional can give you the tools you need to build up your self-kindness, as well as helping you to identify the root of any negative thoughts or feelings. At Circle Health Group, we have many healthcare professionals who can facilitate cognitive behavioural therapy and self-compassion work. Book an appointment today.

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How do I book an appointment?

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on this subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Circle Hospital.