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Why Self Compassion Matters and How to Give It

You’ve been beating yourself up for quite some time now about your shortcomings and perceived failures. Let’s talk about that for a little bit. There’s isn’t a single person in this world that is without flaws. We all have them. In fact, that’s the beauty of our shared human experience. We’re all imperfect beings seeking to be accepted for who we are.

The truth of the matter is that when your partner decided to share their world with you, they decided to share it with all of YOU. Not the just the “perfect” version of you. Yet you still feel the need to be this person who has it all together, all the time. When things don’t work out the way you hope, you really give yourself a hard time. You call yourself names like “stupid” or “dumb” and say things like “I’m not good enough.” You focus on all the things that you didn’t do well.

The real harm here is two-fold. You’re discrediting all the other times that you were successful which if you looked a little closer, you would discover how much success you’ve had and continue to have.  The second harm comes from engaging in negative self-talk. When you engage in this kind of self-talk, you begin to develop a faulty view of yourself. This view shapes the way you see yourself which ultimately shapes the way you believe others see you.

You begin to believe that your partner and others also view you in the same light. Once you’ve adopted such a view, this creates room for relationships problems. You make a mistake and immediately crucify or punish yourself (because you assume that’s what you deserve or how your partner will react). This can create conflicts because your partner may not respond with the harshness you expect but you’ve already shut down and have become withdrawn or you may even lash out. Whatever your response may be, it is usually a result of your self-criticisms. The first few times your partner might respond with compassion and empathy but overtime they will likely become worn out.

The best recommendation I can give, if this is your struggle, is to practice self-compassion. Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as something that involves “acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.” She goes on to say that “instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.”

Treat yourself no differently than you would a loved one. By practicing self-compassion, you’re able to take better care of yourself by providing what you really need the most. This helps to improve your mood thereby making you more pleasant to be around. Your partner will without a doubt appreciate that.

You also teach others how to be more compassionate by modeling self-compassion. By seeing how gentle and understanding you are with yourself, you inevitably set a good example for your partner and even your children. Modeling is truly the best teacher.

So now that we’ve established what self-compassion is and how it helps, you’re probably wondering “how do I do this?”

First start with getting a clear sense of your inner voice. What are you saying to yourself? What kinds of words do you use to describe yourself? What tone are you using? Your inner critic is probably so common (like many of us) that you may not be aware when it’s even present. Whenever you’re feeling bad, immediately take note of what your inner voice is saying.

You can take notes by either writing it down. Some find this helpful when they can review what they’ve written, reflect and see patterns. If writing isn’t your thing then no need to worry. Simply have an internal dialogue about what you notice.

Once you’ve got a clear picture, reframe negative self-talk in a more loving and friendly way. How can you say it with more compassion, sensitivity and understanding? How would you want to be spoken to in this very moment? Being harsh and judgmental doesn’t help. It just makes you feel worse.

Part of being a great partner and having an amazing relationship depends on your ability to take care of you. Taking care of yourself in a good way is what enables you to give the good stuff that your relationship needs to thrive. Ever heard the phrase about not being able to pour from an empty cup? Be sure to fill your cup….regularly.

Make yourself a priority today by committing to being more self-compassionate. You deserve it. No further reason needed. If you find that you’re struggling with this and could use some support, I’d love to help you so don’t hesitate to contact me. You don’t have to struggle alone.

Kerri-Anne Brown

Kerri-Anne Brown

Hi, I'm Kerri-Anne and I'm a licensed mental health counselor in Orlando, FL. I help individuals and couples who are suffering from infertility, perinatal loss, complicated birth (birth trauma) and postpartum issues. Please feel free to reach out anytime.

6 Comments

  1. Amber Lewter on January 19, 2018 at 12:38 am

    Great reminders!

  2. Rachel (Full Cup Play Therapy) on January 19, 2018 at 3:12 am

    LOVE THIS! I’m clearly on board with this as I named my company after this “fill your own cup” saying! This has turned out to be an ongoing process for me and I always need reminders. It’s amazing to peel back the layers and see what we say to ourselves without realising! As parents if we can be more self compassionate we plant beautiful seeds for the way our children treat themselves growing up. Thanks for writing this! X

  3. Kim Martinez/True North Counseling Services on January 23, 2018 at 10:21 am

    “Treat yourself better than a loved one” is so important and even more important to teach our daughters. We teach by modeling.

  4. Lynn Louise Wonders on January 23, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Oh this is sooooo important! Thank you for writing this article!

  5. Rose LaPiere on January 31, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Our inner voice is so important thanks for the writing this!

  6. Lauran Hahn on February 13, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Great way to explain self-compassion. I am a big fan of Kristin Neff, too!

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