It’s easy to blame our self-esteem when things aren’t going our way, when we struggle with relationships and life is beating us down. The self-help industry depends on us feeling this way and makes tons of money helping us raise and keep our self-confidence. As long as we compare ourselves to others, we will never have enough money, looks, power….whatever triggers our self-worth. Marketers in our consumer-driven society constantly give us this message. It’s no wonder it’s the great angst of modern life.
For years, my intervention for people identifying low self-esteem as a therapeutic goal was to suggest they work on becoming proficient at something, anything they enjoyed and could master. Then I read some of Kristen Neff’s research on self-compassion. Neff’s antidote to feeling better about ourselves does not involve evaluating how good or worthy we are, it involves what she calls self-compassion.
Self-compassion is a way of relating to ourselves. It includes being caring and supportive to ourselves when we fail, when we feel inadequate or are simply struggling with something in our lives.
Self-compassion is comprised of 3 key components
Being kind to ourselves when we suffer (Self-Kindness). We are very good at being kind and understanding to our friends when they struggle but not so much to ourselves. Self-kindness means holding our suffering with love and engaging in internal dialogues that are benevolent and encouraging rather than cruel or disparaging.
Framing our experience of imperfection in light of the shared human experience (Common Humanity). Recognising our common humanity (everyone in the world experiences pain throughout their lives) helps us switch our perspective from self-pity (“poor me”) to a more objective perspective of a shared human experience. This stance reduces feelings of shame and inadequacy.
Being mindfully aware of our negative thoughts and emotions (Mindfulness). Mindfulness counters the tendency to avoid painful thoughts and emotions, allowing us to hold the truth of our experience even when it’s unpleasant.
Want to learn more about how to stop beating yourself up when you’re not good enough or failed at something…Click here.
And remember, self-compassion will help you be kinder and more nurturing and understanding towards yourself in good times and bad. And when we are kinder to ourselves, we will be kinder to our family and friends. It’s a life skill that help’s soothe us when we feel discouraged as well as help calm our troubled minds during these times.