While we often think of compassion as something we offer others, did you know that showing compassion to ourselves can lead to significant improvements in our mental well-being? But what is compassion? Compassion boils down to realizing that suffering and pain are shared human experiences that require understanding and kindness. Just like how we show compassion to others, it is important to treat ourselves with the same grace.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is defined as treating oneself with care when mistakes, failures, and painful situations occur. The three elements of self-compassion as defined by psychologist Kristen Neff are self-kindness, shared human experience, and mindfulness:
Self-compassion means being kind to ourselves despite our flaws and recognizing that we are not perfect. When we accept our humanness by treating ourselves with care and kindness during painful situations, we are better equipped to handle our emotions.
Shared Human Experience
When we make mistakes or situations don’t go the way we want, recognizing the shared human experience is a vital part of self-compassion because it helps us feel less alone. Self-compassion helps us realize that flaws and suffering are part of the human experience and something that everyone experiences.
A part of mindfulness is being aware of our feelings and ourselves without judgment. Mindfulness helps us better understand our emotions by seeing our situation and feelings from a larger perspective. We can practice mindfulness by viewing our negative thoughts with clarity and understanding these emotions rather than suppressing them. Self-compassion can be better practiced through understanding pain or negative emotions with a non-judgmental and compassionate mindset.
Why Compassion for Yourself is Important
Self-compassion is vital for the most important relationship in your life: your relationship with yourself. Self-compassion can help prevent you from spiraling down from negativity by understanding your emotions. During painful situations, choosing to treat yourself with kindness rather than judgment can help your relationship with yourself deepen, leading to better mental health and life satisfaction. Cultivating a good relationship with yourself is also foundational in maintaining your relationships with others and the world. After all, your relationship with yourself affects every other facet of your life.
How to Practice Self-Compassion
We now know the many benefits of self-compassion. But how can we practice self-compassion? One of the easiest ways to practice self-compassion is through journaling. When you write down your emotions or thoughts about a topic you feel insecure or frustrated with, you can build self-awareness through seeing the situation and your emotions with more clarity.
EmoteWell offers a digital journal exercise focused on self-compassion that can help you notice unhealthy patterns in your emotions and how to better process them. Through detailed prompts, Emotewell guides you through the 3 parts of self-compassion to help you think in more self-compassionate ways. Not only is it a great starting point to prioritize your mental health, it’s also incredibly easy! Whenever you find yourself being too self-critical, you can conveniently access the exercise on your phone or device, and it only takes a few minutes to complete.
Compassion for Yourself and Others during Pride Month
As we develop self-compassion for ourselves, we naturally become more compassionate towards others. This is especially relevant during Pride Month this June, which is a celebration of identity and love for the LGBTQIA+ community. Rainbow flags and colorful merch are waved at parades to show off pride and support for the community. And though this month is a celebration of visibility and identity, Pride Month holds a different experience for everyone, and sometimes the emotions that come with this month can be painful, confusing, or conflicting. For some, Pride Month isn’t the colorful rainbows and celebration we see, but rather a period of struggle. Thus, it is important to recognize the need for both the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies to practice self-compassion.
Despite the progress that has been made, the world can still be a scary place for the LGBTQIA+ community. All emotions during this month are valid, and even if you are still on your journey to embrace or find your identity, self-compassion can help you move towards acceptance and process difficult emotions.
As allies, it is important to be respectful and understanding of our LGBTQIA+ peers. Practicing compassion means understanding that support looks different for each LGBTQIA+ individual and that we must be supportive without assuming their needs. This can manifest in the form of educating ourselves, active listening, or simply asking how we can best show support. Practicing compassion for others can help you become a better ally not only during Pride Month but all year long. And ultimately practicing self-compassion can make you a better ally to not only the LGBTQIA+ community but also yourself.