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  • Writer's pictureCloey Bibbs

Self-Compassion: How Being Kind to Ourselves Lifts us Further

In a world filled with high expectations and the need for being perceived as perfect, we learn to seek external validation, rather than validation from ourselves. The fear of failure is life consuming, and we would do anything to avoid it. Self-compassion is about still viewing ourselves as worthy of compassion and empathy when we are confronted with failure, the same way we provide others with compassion and empathy with their shortcomings. The topic of self-compassion is comprised of 3 parts: Self-Kindness, Common Humanity, and Mindfulness. 

Would you scold your child for struggling in school? How about belittling your partner/spouse for not getting that promotion at work? Whether your answer is yes or no, how do we think scolding and belittling ourselves can help us improve? If we did this, we would be so focused on the pressure that we put on ourselves, that we aren’t being mindful of what is keeping us from growing. When we implement self-kindness, we are refraining from the unnecessary, self-defeating thoughts and behaviors we have. What we don’t achieve is not reflective of our worth.

It is guaranteed that these role models in our lives have failed at least once. We don’t know everyone’s backstory, so it’s tempting to only see the results and not the process that comes with it. We see the reward, but not the barriers, such as anxiety and depression, that came with it.. Why is that? We hide it. Learning to embrace our shortcomings in a way that encourages others to not be afraid to share theirs is called “common humanity”. Being humble to others not only benefits others, but ourselves when we acknowledge that there's no need to be ashamed of what makes us human. 

Self- compassion is not just for the big events in life that reflect success, such as degrees and promotions, because it’s also necessary for our personal mistakes. Examples of this could be lashing out at an employee, or overcommitting and then canceling plans with a friend at the last minute. A few possible thoughts to arise could be “I am bad” or “My friends won’t like me anymore for canceling on them”. Providing yourself with compassion can look like this: “I had a long day at work and I let out my stress and frustration on another employee who may also be having a rough day. Maybe next time when I feel this urge I can check in on myself and identify what I need at the moment, and probably apologize to that employee…” and “Sometimes misjudging my availability and social battery happens, which then can result in canceling plans at the last minute. This has been a pattern with multiple people, so I will apologize to my friend and engage in some deeper reflection on why I might be doing this.”

Our internalized schemas are patterns of how we view the world and ourselves. They are mental shortcuts that filter our thoughts and beliefs and can contribute to our internal dialogue, especially when faced with failure.: 

When we learn our schemas and our way of thinking, it can help us with becoming more mindful of where these negative thoughts came from. Thinking in this way is generally unconscious. We don’t recognize it, because our life experiences have contributed to it throughout time. Mindfulness is about observing and being curious. “I am stupid” “I am unlovable” “I am incompetent”. Who said these things? Where did they come from? Identifying our schemas, learning where they came from, and understanding when they can be triggered can help create more room for self-compassion. Let’s use the canceling plans example. “After doing some research on schemas, I have identified that I place unrelenting standards on myself and I am very hypercritical. Balancing school, work, and personal life is exhausting, yet I always think that I should always be at 110% at work, school, and still be at that 110% for my friends. I have also identified an “approval seeking” schema. I am very confident this has to do with my parents expecting that I have all A’s, play sports, perform in band, and keep up with being active in the community when I was in public schools. This habit has now been manifested as a working college student, and it’s sabotaging not only my mental and physical health, but my friendships". 

If you would like to learn more about self-compassion and other aspects of Positive Psychology, feel free to check out our 10-week Positive Psychology group!



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