At some point in our lives, we all have heard the phrase that ‘charity begins at home’! Most of us accept it and even preach it to others when the opportunity for sharing wisdom arises (yeah, we are good at that!). The essence of the above phrase is seated in the value of compassion or kindness towards others. Compassion is empathy, kindness and understanding for others during suffering or challenging times.
So, I have a question for you – have you ever heard that ‘compassion starts with self?’ Probably, not, aside from that fact that I made the phrase up. Chances are that self-compassion is an alien concept and only comes into our lives through social media memes. So let me give you a brief snap shot and advocate the case for ‘self-compassion’ as an essential in our lives.
A simple google search will define ‘self-compassion’ along the lines of empathy, understanding and kindness towards one’s own self, when big or small life challenges happen. Kristen Neff, the world’s leading researcher on self-compassion, has identified three main components to it:
1. Self-kindness vs Self-judgement: treating ourselves with kindness and understanding when we fail, suffer or feel inadequate as opposed to ignoring our needs or belittling ourselves
2. Common-humanity vs Isolation: remembering that everyone fails and suffers at times and that we are not the only ones.
3. Mindfulness vs Over-identification: taking a balanced approach to our challenges and emotions, without over-identifying with heavy emotions or situations.
Kristen’s research has contributed significantly to understanding the importance of practicing self-compassion in daily life and more so when experiencing mental health challenges. Self-compassion also forms a crucial part of my own therapy model and aims at supporting and empowering clients, by helping them connect and understand their own emotions and situations. A simple activity that I encourage client’s to do is to treat themselves at the end of the day, each day. This can be as simple as listening to some music, having a cuppa or going for a walk. Practice makes one perfect!
So, I invite you to explore self-compassion for yourself and incorporate it in small ways within your daily life. Self-compassion will be the strongest script that you can have for yourself. If you would like to work on further developing your skills, our psychologists at Your Mind Matters will be happy to assist you.