By Michelle Murdolo, MS, RD, CDN
Self-compassion means being kind to ourselves when we’re confronted with our own personal suffering, failures and shortcomings. Instead of responding with judgement, we are gentle, caring and accepting of our own pain. This allows us to relate to others and the shared human experience without suffering from feelings of isolation and disconnection. It helps us feel more connected to the world, rather than feeling alone.
Research suggests that the kinder we are to ourselves, the better we are at taking care of ourselves. This can help improve the relationship we have with ourselves, others, our body, and food. It can help us develop new, positive behaviors that improve our self-care skills. A lack of self-compassion can prevent us from developing and learning about our habits. It can also leave us with a lack of understanding about our own triggers, thoughts, and behaviors. By developing self-compassion, we are open to learn and to grow.
Self-compassion typically has three components:
- Self-kindness (vs. self-judgment): Emphasis is on being gentle with yourself during painful experiences rather than getting angry and criticizing; recognizing that fighting against reality increases stress; accepting reality with sympathy and kindness.
- Common humanity (vs. isolation): Realizing that you’re not the only person suffering or making mistakes; recognizing that being imperfect, failing and having difficulties are a part of life.
- Mindfulness (vs. over-identification): Practicing non-judgmental awareness; understanding that compassion cannot happen while pain is being ignored.
Practicing self-compassion begins with understanding that you are human and it’s okay to make mistakes. When mistakes occur, it’s important to show yourself kindness and comfort – the way you would a friend. Accept that this may not feel good; this may be a painful or uncomfortable moment but try not to pass judgement on yourself.
Remember – imperfection is part of life and is bound to happen. When we let ourselves feel that mistakes and failing are wrong, we begin to feel isolated and separated from the rest of the world. Self-compassion allows us to remain connected. This takes time, work, and practice. Try to forgive yourself and allow for growth along the way. The goal is always progress, never perfection.
Michelle Murdolo, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist who guides patients through their bariatric surgery and weight management journey. She comes from a background of eating disorders and disordered eating and emphasizes body positivity and health.