When someone we care about deeply is going through a difficult time or experiencing challenges in their lives, even those of their own making, we are often quick to provide comfort, support, and encouragement to help them cope with their struggles and get back on their feet. But when it comes to dealing with our own mistakes and setbacks, many of us often fall short of approaching ourselves with that same kindness and understanding. Instead, we often judge ourselves, rather harshly, for our own perceived failures and criticize ourselves for not meeting our own goals and expectations. We internalize this anger, blame and shame – and over time this can feed into a lack of self-confidence, escalate our insecurities, and contribute to stress and anxiety. Being compassionate towards yourself is critical for maintaining a healthy perspective when things do not go your way. Cultivating self-compassion requires a lot of conscious effort, practice, and patience, so here are a few ways to get started:
- Show yourself the same kindness that you would offer your loved ones who are struggling. When things are particularly difficult or when we are at our most vulnerable, is often when we are the hardest on ourselves – more so than we would ever be towards someone else. In times like that, try to silence that inner critic that often goes unchecked. Allow yourself the time and opportunity to heal and be comforted and remember that we all deserve forgiveness and chances for improvement. This can ultimately boost your sense of self-worth and arm you with a resilient mindset to approach future troubles with a positive attitude.
- Choose your words. Words have the power to hurt, even the ones we direct at ourselves in the privacy of our own minds. Refrain from attacking yourself with negative, often unwarranted labels, especially things you would not say aloud when comforting your best friend. Practice speaking to yourself with more kindness and understanding, and over time you will start to reframe how you feel and think about yourself as well.
- Remember that imperfections, failures, and mistakes are all part of the shared human experience. Everyone experiences them in some capacity or another, even on a day-to-day basis and many of us struggle to forgive ourselves for them. While that fact alone may not solve your troubles, you can derive some solace in knowing that you are not alone in that feeling. So instead isolating yourself in your thoughts, share them with someone you trust and respect – this provides the opportunity to benefit from someone else’s experiences and perspectives while creating a common ground to share encouragement and support.
- Use your shortcomings as avenues for growth. While subjecting yourself to criticism and punishment for your perceived shortcomings may be your immediate response, over time it only serves to perpetuate negativity and impede growth. Instead, channel your energy into identifying opportunities for improvement and self-development. A lot of our behaviours and responses result from habits we subconsciously pick up over the course of our lives, so taking the time to truly reflect on behaviours that affect us negatively and finding ways to unlearn them will go a long way towards developing a positive and healthier outlook.