Having compassion for oneself is no different than having compassion for others. To begin, we cannot have compassion for others if we do not know they are suffering. The word compassion means “suffer with,” therefore, to have compassion for others, we must recognize they are suffering and feel a response in our hearts as well. When we can recognize one is suffering and feel a response to that, we can offer understanding and kindness when they make a mistake or fail, instead of judging them.
Self-compassion is acting the same way towards oneself through difficult times, failures, or when something does not go in a way in which we would like. Rather than judging and criticizing oneself for shortcomings, self-compassion is being kind and understanding when we are not perfect.
Self-compassion is an integral part of your journey because we know perfection is not realistic. It is not realistic that you will be perfectly on track with the changes we task for you all the time, nor is this an expectation. Self-compassion also includes allowing you to not be perfect with your eating and to make deliberate and intentional choices to go outside of your “plan”. We are all human and make slip-ups, mistakes, and limitations will occur. We can make changes to be healthier and happier; however, it must be done from a place of care and love for oneself. The more we fight against the reality that mistakes will happen and there is no such thing as “perfection” , the harder it will be. We want you to exercise self-compassion, intention, and open your hearts to the shared humanity that we all experience challenges. It is with self-compassion that you can bounce back faster from mistakes and slip-ups.
How can we practice more self-compassion?
For many, practicing self-compassion will be a new and foreign concept. However, research has shown that just like anything in life, the more we practice being kind and compassionate with ourselves, the more it will increase the habit of self-compassion.
Self-compassion is a practice of accepting feelings, not changing feelings. If we try to push away or suppress feelings of pain and frustration, it will likely get worse. With self-compassion, we will learn to accept that an experience may be painful and embrace ourselves with kindness and love remembering that imperfections are part of the shared human experience. By doing so, you can find comfort to work through painful and challenging situations providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation.
To develop the habit of self-compassion, we can encourage you to talk to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend. When a challenging situation or a mistake has occurred, we encourage you to take out a piece of paper and write how they would respond to a friend. For example, you may tell your nutrition coach “I completely failed this past weekend. I gave into temptation and ate way more cookies than I should have. I have no willpower.” As a coach, we ask you to think about what you would say to a friend in a similar situation and notice how this is different from their initial reaction to themselves. Keeping a self-compassion journal can also be an effective way of building self-compassion. Taking a few minutes each day to write yourself kind words of comfort can develop the habit of speaking to oneself from a place of love increasing confidence and self-love.
Changing your critical self-talk is another effective strategy to help develop their self-compassion. The first step to changing the way we treat ourselves is to teach you to notice the critical voice in your heads. This may be challenging as many of you will not recognize the critical voice in your heads, given that it is so common. However, we want you to make an active effort to soften the critical voice and to practice compassion rather than judgment. When mistakes happen, we get the chance as a coach to help you reframe the experience to that of understanding and kindness. Taking the example from above of “I completely failed this past weekend. I gave into temptation and ate way more cookies than I should have. I have no willpower,” as a coach we want you to use this and come up with response of how you would speak to a friend or family member in a similar situation. You wouldn’t tell them they were a failure! You would tell them mistakes happy, and give them an example of a mistake you made and how you got over it!