You’re walking down a corridor and see a stranger on the other side walking towards you. They’re carrying a laptop and coffee, then they stumble. Their laptop and coffee fall. What do you do?
You’d probably say, “Are you okay?” and quickly bend down to help gather their things.
Now imagine you’re holding the laptop and coffee, then you stumble. The coffee spills and your laptop falls. What would you say to yourself?
80% of the people that I coach say they’d tell themselves, “Are you stupid?”
Why are we more willing to be compassionate with others than with ourselves?
The Dalai Lama says, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” When we practice compassion for others, our body releases a chemical called oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that is also activated when we eat something delicious or when we have sex. Compassion for others is a feeling that has helped humans and animals survive.
But this is a different story when we turn compassion towards ourselves. Self-compassion is not as instilled in us. Plus, with the busyness of everyday life, it’s easy to forget to be kind to ourselves.
How can we rewire our brains to make self-compassion a daily act? Kristin Neff, ph.D. and pioneer in the study of self-compassion suggests we do the following:
- Treat yourself how you would treat a friend
Remember the exercise at the beginning of this article? Next time you make a mistake, talk to yourself like you would to a friend who is having a tough time.
- Recognizing the shared humanity of the moment
In a moment of upset, remember that you are not the first person to experience this or be in this situation. Many people have been in your shoes, it’s not just you. So try to recognize the shared humanity.
- Practice being mindful of the experience
If we are feeling miserable, don’t push it down, don’t numb it, but also try not to act on it. Just be with it.
Breathe deeply and bring mindfulness in to lessen the emotional trigger. Then put the situation in the bigger picture by asking yourself, “Is this really that big of a deal?” “What’s the learning here?” “How can I move forward?”
These practices have made a big difference in my life. I was always harsher on myself than anybody else, especially when I messed up. But when I incorporated these practices into my life, it helped me step back and see what I was experiencing from a place of mindfulness. This has not only made me more compassionate with myself, but towards others as well.
So, the next time you find your inner voice shouting at you, see if you can practice these steps to be more compassionate to yourself.
Self-Compassion and Psychological Well-Being. Neff, Kristin. Constructivism in the Human Sciences; Denton Vol 9, Iss. 2, (2004) 27-38.