To understand self-compassion simply would be to say that you give yourself the same unconditional kindness and care that you would a loved one. It applies to when you make a mistake, fail at something you had started excitedly, or hold yourself responsible for every bad situation, among other such scenarios. Showing yourself compassion when it comes to your professional career, in a relationship with your loved one, parents, and most importantly, yourself is to ensure growth and mental wellbeing.
What is self-compassion?
Defining self-compassion, Dr Deepak Raheja, senior psychiatrist, psychologist, and director at Hope Care India, says, “It is given to understand that individuals who are kind to themselves and who engage in the daily practice of being positive through mindfulness would have higher self-esteem as opposed to others. Being able to regulate emotions and talk one out of one’s negative thought process is the hallmark of a progressive headspace that helps people to move towards self-actualisation.”
Over criticism impedes self-compassion
Overt self-criticism is one of the more evident markers of non-compassion and a lack of kindness towards yourself. Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, points out, “If you do not self-evaluate at all, even when you are making mistakes, the critique is missing and you will continue to make mistakes. Similarly, if you are over-criticising yourself and not recognising your strengths, your self-esteem takes a beating, and again you will be struggling in both your personal and professional life.” He suggests, instead, that having realistic self-awareness, which means knowing what you are good at and not good at and willing to accept the mistakes helps you not only be kinder but also work on yourself.
Self-compassion is different from self-care and self-esteem
While indulging in self-care is absolutely critical and is even an aspect of self-compassion, both aren’t synonyms for each other. “Self-compassion encompasses an ‘attitude’ of overall kindness and concern for self, whereas, self-care includes ‘actions’ complemented by taking steps and initiatives that incorporate concern for self,” points our Dr Raheja. He further adds that “consistency in behaviours that enhance mental hygiene is important for one’s sense of self-worth and overall wellbeing.” He advises talking to yourself like you would talk to your best friend, maintaining a gratitude journal, writing a letter to yourself, being fluid and living in the moment, maintaining a schedule, engaging in hobbies as some habits that help you connect better with yourself.
Self-esteem, too, has a correlation with self-compassion. While the former is feeling good about oneself, and self-compassion is taking care of oneself, says Dr Parikh, because “if you take care of yourself, you will feel good about yourself.”
How to know if you are self-compassionate
If you are someone who struggles with saying “no” when you have to or keep prioritizing everybody else over themselves and at their own cost to the extent that it borders a burnout and low self-esteem, chances are that you are not practising compassion towards yourself. “Being very angry, self-critical, a constant pattern of self-reproach, viewing life with a negative connotation” are some of the markers that you need to check-in for, as per Dr Raheja.
Asking whether “you value yourself and your wellbeing, the importance of good moments, if you take breaks before it’s too late, spend your time in doing things what you like doing, if there is ‘me-time’ available for you”, is also important in assessing where you are in your journey to self-compassion, as shared by Dr Parikh.
How to practice self-compassion
While compassion, both towards yourself and others, may have a different definition for everyone, there are certain things that can you nudge you towards being more self-compassionate, like taking care of yourself, practising meditation, indulging in sports, arts, creativity, taking breaks, ensuring a good lifestyle with no substances, spending time with your pets, plants, loved ones, doing a digital detox, standing up for your rights and creating boundaries, says Dr Parikh.
To that, Dr Raheja adds that anybody who can “feel a sense of cohesion and the challenges of life seems manageable, are largely able to adapt and deal with the dissonance of life and continue to be nurturing to the environment by practising mindfulness, and an empathetic, sensitive, and forgiving demeanour” is most probable to have a great sense of self-compassion.