By Barbara Broggelwirth, RDN, CDN
Imagine your best friend calls you and tells you about a mistake they made. They tell you how badly they feel about it and are beating themselves up over it. A natural response would be a compassionate one. You might tell them how worthy they are and remind them that everyone makes mistakes, right? Now, turn that scenario on yourself. What happens when YOU make the mistake? Often, we judge ourselves harshly and don’t offer up the same sympathy that we would offer to our friends.
What if we could learn to change that inner conversation when we fall short of our ideals. How much better would we feel if we could acknowledge our shortcomings without judgement so we can do what is necessary to help ourselves?
Being human means being imperfect. Everyone experiences this; we are not alone in our imperfection. But when problems arise, we often internalize them and irrationally believe that “it’s only ME”. Self-compassion recognizes that we all struggle in some way or another. This change in belief structure helps us to foster a more connected mindset that includes others and recognize that we are not alone (1,2).
If practicing self-compassion is a new way of thinking for you, here are a few tips that are supported by research to help train our minds to be more accepting of ourselves:
- First, it is important to realize that self-compassion doesn’t always alleviate the pain of the situation, it helps us to mindfully accept it and “embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response” rather than fighting the painful feelings (1).
- There are practical applications for cultivating self-compassion such as practicing mindfulness through meditation and cognitive behavioral activities that can help you identify any unhelpful beliefs and thought patterns.
- Mindfulness involves turning toward our painful thoughts and emotions and seeing them as they are – without suppression or avoidance (1,2) and is cultivated through meditation. These may include a “compassionate body scan meditation”, “a loving kindness meditation” or a “five-minute self-compassion break” (3).
- Practice exercises may include writing a compassionate letter to yourself or walking through an activity where you respond to yourself in the same way you respond to a friend (3).
“Compassion is not a virtue — it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have – it’s something we choose to practice.” – Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW
- Germer C, Neff K. Self-Compassion in Clinical Practice. J Clin Psychol. 2013;69(8):856-867. doi:10.1002/jclp.22021
- Neff K, Self-Compassion? W, Self-Compassion? W et al. Self-Compassion. Self-Compassion. https://self-compassion.org. Published 2019. Accessed August 17, 2019.
- com. http://www.mindfulnessstudies.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Self-Compassion_and_Mindfulness.pdf. Published 2019. Accessed August 17, 2019.
Barbara Broggelwirth, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is currently working with Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients. She works with patients to help them achieve their health and weight loss goals.