Having empathy for others is considered to be a positive quality and yet so often we fail to treat ourselves with compassion. Lack of self compassion can be the result of many different influences in our lives and there is widespread recognition that our general wellbeing is under siege by the pressures of our modern lifestyle. What is more, at a time like this when we are isolated and faced with so many uncertainties and fears, we are especially vulnerable to falling prey to our own perceived weaknesses and inadequacies. Developing compassion for yourself is so important when you consider that research has shown that compassion for self supports our emotional well-being in times of adversity by reducing the risk of anxiety and depression and when we care for ourselves we are also more likely to engage in health promoting behaviours.
Practically, self-compassion means treating yourself with the same kindness, understanding and patience that you would treat someone you love and the only way that we can know how to express this is by feeling it or experiencing it for ourselves.
The work of Dr Kristen Neff from the University of California is widely recognised as a resource to help people develop the capacity to care for themselves so I have included one of her exercises as inspiration.
The first step in the exercise is to think about a time when someone close to you might have felt bad about themselves or have been struggling in some way. Write down how you would respond. What would you do or say and pay attention to the tone you would use.
Next think of a time when you might have felt bad or have been struggling. Write down how you would respond to yourself in this situation. What would you do or say and pay attention to the tone you would use.
Did you notice a difference and if so ask yourself why?
Now write down how you think your attitude towards yourself might change if you treated yourself in the same way that you respond to the people that you care about when they are having a difficult time.
Lastly, why not be kind to yourself and see what happens.
By Ronelle Huddy
Photo by Hassan from Pexels