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Self-Love and Self-Compassion



With February being the month of love, and holidays like Valentine’s Day focusing on expressing love to others, it is also important to value and love ourselves. Self-compassion and showing ourselves loving kindness is necessary for our mental health and emotional well-being.


Do you find you can judge yourself harshly or be self-critical? Do you need to be the best at something or get all A’s in order to feel happy with yourself? Are you a perfectionist terrified to show any slight flaws? Do you scroll through social media and compare your peers’ lives to your own? We are conditioned as human beings to “compete” with those around us, so we can feel good about ourselves. But should our self-worth really be reliant on the successes and failures of others? That way of thinking can lead to endless stress, depression, and loneliness.


It is important to stop comparing yourself to others, and instead, regain a sense of appreciation for who you are and what you need. Far too often, we rely on our self-esteem to be reflective of the successes and failures of ourselves compared with others. On the other hand, self-compassion is about relating to ourselves gently, even during challenging moments. Research has shown that self-compassion increases well-being and resilience to stress, decreases anxiety, depression, shame, and fear of failure, as well as helps in our interpersonal relationships.


WHAT IT IS: SELF-ESTEEM VS. SELF-COMPASSION


Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor at University of Texas at Austin has described self-esteem as the degree to which we evaluate ourselves positively. It represents how much we like or value ourselves and is often based on comparisons with others and being “above average.” In contrast, self-compassion is not based on positive judgments or evaluations, but instead, it is a way of relating to ourselves. Self-compassion is not about judging ourselves, but relating to ourselves kindly, embracing ourselves, flaws and all. When you learn to practice self-love and have self-compassion, you can be a healthier and happier you.


Self-compassion has many definitions, but it is based on acting the same way to yourself when having a hard time, failing, or noticing a character flaw, as you would with a struggling loved one. You wouldn’t walk past and ignore a friend crying in the hallway, so why not do the same for yourself when you’re struggling? Let’s show ourselves the same loving kindness and compassion that we would show towards someone we love.


SELF-COMPASSION PRACTICES:


Now that you know what self-compassion is, how can you practice this in your everyday life? Every person’s self-care routine may look different, but there are various ways you can practice self-compassion on a daily basis.


Some common practices include:

  • Showing kindness to yourself

  • Treating yourself as you would a small child

  • Talk to yourself as you would a good friend

  • Practicing mindfulness

  • Focusing on your needs

  • Identifying your self-critical thoughts and use “releasing statements”

  • Talking positively to and about yourself

  • Journaling affirmations

  • Prioritizing yourself

  • Forgiving yourself

  • Allowing yourself to be imperfect

  • Listening to your body

  • Not judging yourself

  • Taking time to do things that you enjoy

  • Realizing as humans, we can make mistakes and have flaws

  • Recognizing our shared humanity

  • Allowing yourself to get help and support when needed

It’s normal to experience challenges and hardships and stress in life at times. Be it in our everyday life or social media, we are inundated with moments that make us critically judge ourselves. It’s important to reevaluate how we view and treat ourselves and lead with kindness, gentleness, compassion, and acceptance. When we practice self-compassion, we aren’t dependent on others to validate our worth, but instead, we recognize our inherent value. Practicing self-love and self-compassion can be instrumental in embracing a healthier and happier you.


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