Many of us are our own worst critics. When we make a mistake, we often say harsh things to ourselves. If we feel we like we’ve blown it or stepped out of line, we can fire off bitter comments aimed at our self. “You jerk!” “You’re a loser!” “What’s wrong with you?” These verbal assaults can wear us down and make it difficult for us to enjoy our personal and professional lives. We can end up feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed out. Not a fun way to go through life.

Have you ever noticed that you would never say these severe comments to a dear friend who came to you having just made a similar mistake or found herself in a troubling situation? Instead, you would be supportive and understanding and try to help your friend feel better. You might reassure her that you’ve felt similarly, you still respect her and you don’t think she’s a bad person. Why deal with your friend with this kindness, but not yourself? You deserve to treat yourself with the same compassion.

The good news is that self-compassion can be learned. What’s self-compassion? Kristin Neff has been studying and teaching self-compassion for about 10 years. She breaks it down in to three components:

1. Kindness. Being soothing and comforting with yourself as you imagine a nurturing mom would care for her child. Or being as understanding and supportive with yourself as you would be with a good friend.

2. Common humanity. Recognizing that you, along with everyone else, are a flawed human being. Holding in mind this connection provides you with more balanced perspective on your shortcomings and difficulties.

3. Mindfulness. Accepting what is happening in the present moment. Being aware of your feelings in a way that neither dismisses nor exaggerates your suffering.

Treating ourselves kindly when looking at past mistakes, failures or humiliations, makes it easier for us to own up to what we’ve done and make things better. Self-compassion helps us interact with ourselves and others in a way that promotes not only our own well-being, but the well-being of others we interact with, as well. It also helps us live up to our fullest potential since people who practice self-compassion know how to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and start all over again. They are not caught in anxiety and stress.

Learning self-compassion requires a willingness to notice when we are engaging in negative self-talk, being open to changing our thinking patterns, patience and lots of practice. For many of us, the way we think about ourselves has become so ingrained that we are no longer consciously aware of the effects these thoughts have on the way we feel about ourselves, as well as the way we treat ourselves.

People who have learned to be kinder to themselves are much more at ease and report feeling more peaceful moments in their lives, as well as a greater ability to move through challenging circumstances.

You can learn to treat yourself with more compassion. Practicing the above suggestions are a great place to begin.

Author's Bio: 

I bring the practice of self-compassion in to my work with my clients. If you’re interested to find out how self-compassionate you are, you can take this test:

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, having earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from the National Catholic School of Social Service, Catholic University. I have over 10 years of experience working with adults in individual and couple settings.

I specialize in couples therapy, using a model called Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT). It is a very effective and powerful way to work with couples. Together, we create a safe space that promotes reflection, understanding, and change.