Imagine your best friend going through a tough period in their life: they just got fired from their dream job, and they believe they are completely incapable of anything. “I am so useless and stupid! I cannot do anything right!”, they tell you. And now think: how would you react? You likely see yourself rushing to your friend’s side: you comfort them, support them. You tell them that many people feel this way after losing their job. You try to reassure them and tell them that they are being too harsh on themselves. But now imagine that this “best friend” is you. Would you do the same to yourself?
We would probably all like to imagine doing the same for ourselves, but the reality is usually a little bit different than that. Many of us find it easier to be there for others than to be there for ourselves when times are tough: it feels easier and more acceptable for us to be compassionate to others than to show that compassion for ourselves. But what is self-compassion anyways?
What is compassion?
Self-compassion: it is not a feeling - it is motivation. It is the motivation to define, acknowledge, and engage with the source of your pain and suffering and the motivation to alleviate yourself from that pain. It is a way of telling yourself “I see how I am feeling, and I understand where it is coming from”. It is a way of feeling less lonely and isolated in your experience by making it normal and human. And it is a way of engaging in change: it helps you find a way to let your pain go. Self-compassion is a way of learning how to be gentle, kind, and more loving to yourself.
When can I engage in self-compassion?
Truth be told, there is no wrong time to practice self-compassion: you can nurture and practice your compassionate self-talk at any given time by, for example, journaling or mindfulness. Writing yourself compassionate notes and leaving them around the house for you to read and remind yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and say self-compassionate messages to yourself.
However, it is true that self-compassion can especially come in handy in those tough moments when you are feeling anxiety all over your body. In moments when you feel guilty. When your perfectionism and inner critic are strong and overwhelming. And even when you are simply having an exhausting day at work. Self-compassion serves as a great way to validate and normalise what you are feeling in the present moment and point yourself in a helpful and more positive direction.
If self-compassion sounds like something you would like to work on, below you can find some ideas on what you could tell yourself to spark your imagination!
20 self-compassionate phrases for tough times
1. Making mistakes is a part of life – everyone makes them, and I allow myself to make them as well.
2. It is okay to be upset because I made a mistake, but I can also learn and grow from it.
3. I forgive myself for...
4. Criticizing myself will not help me feel better: I choose to be kind to myself.
5. Even when I am at my worst, I am still enough.
6. I might not be good at ___ right now, but that is okay: practice leads to improvement.
7. I accept myself for who I am: I embrace both my strengths and weaknesses.
8. Just because I have flaws doesn't mean there is something wrong with me: flaws are human.
9. I know I am struggling, but I am doing the best that I can right now.
10. I am worthy of receiving love and compassion.
11. I am not my thoughts.
12. I would like to be perfect, and I am not, but nobody is.
13. I am feeling ___ right now and that is okay: I accept it, it is okay to feel ___.
14. That was the best decision I could have made in that moment.
15. I can handle problems that come my way.
16. Today was tough - it is normal that I need some rest.
17. Doubting myself won't make my decision easier: I choose to trust myself.
18. I am going to treat myself the way I would treat my best friend.
19. I deserve to choose what is best for me.
20. I deserve to be happy.
I would like to finish this article with a little reminder for you: self-compassion is a skill and it won’t happen overnight. Just like you needed a lot of time and practice to, for example, learn to ride a bike or speak a new language, you now need time and practice to learn to be self-compassionate. And on some days self compassion might be easy-peasy, while on other days it might be really difficult. And on those days when it is really really difficult, remember why you are practicing self-compassion: because you want to be your own “best friend”.
Written by Tena Mijić, Intern Psychologist at AntiLoneliness
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