I recently wrote this article on how to practice self-compassion when it’s the last thing you want to do. Because when we’re upset, so many of us revert back to what we know: berating ourselves.
We might do this in the moment. For days. Maybe even weeks.
We might do this after bathing suit shopping. After not running as fast or walking as long as someone else, or ourselves the time before. After an awkward interaction with our boss. After making a mistake. After doing, saying or experiencing anything we deem inadequate.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
But even when we don’t feel like it, self-compassion is still the better path. Self-compassion calms us. It stops the cycle of insults we hurl our way. It helps us think more clearly. To better understand ourselves. To soothe ourselves.
In my piece psychotherapist Ali Miller shares excellent suggestions for practicing self-compassion when we believe we can’t. These are additional ideas I’ve come up with:
- Write a letter to yourself talking about why you’re so upset. Avoid insults and mean remarks. Write from your heart. What’s hurting you? Why is it hurting you? Connect to that hurt and frustration, and tell yourself, with honesty and grace, what’s really on your mind.
- Play. Play is a great way to release ourselves from the rigid confines of self-criticism. Play is release, curiosity, joy, fulfillment, focus. In his book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion psychologist and Psych Central blogger Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D, lists 52 ways we can play. His list includes everything from making a new dessert to kissing to lying under a tree to singing around the house to taking up knitting to arranging flowers. Try these activities, or do anything that feels playful to you.
- Try yoga. When we don’t want to practice self-compassion, the stubbornness usually resides in our heads. Yoga helps us move from our brains into our bodies. It helps us release pent-up emotions. It helps us shake out pent-up thoughts. Attend a yoga class, or practice at home. Anna has many excellent resources on her website. Lately, I’ve been taking hot yoga classes, and after each class, I feel a sense of release. Yoga helps me to connect to my body. It helps me to slow down. To get curious about my mean thoughts, and to surrender to self-compassion, in a quiet, calm, respectful way.
- Pinpoint the pain. Where does your pain live? What color is your pain? What does it look like? What does it smell like it? If you could talk to your pain, what would it say?
- Explore what’ll soothe that pain. What will make you feel better? What do you need? What will help to heal your pain? Calm it when it’s throbbing?
What I love about self-compassion is that it’s about listening to ourselves. It’s letting ourselves be heard and acknowledged. It’s about feeling all our feelings.
In that article Miller shares a great example of self-compassion (and how it differs from self-criticism):
You feel jealous because your colleague got a raise and you didn’t. If you’re self-critical, you might say, “I shouldn’t feel jealous; good people don’t feel jealous.” However, if you’re self-compassionate, you might say, “Ouch, I’m feeling jealous. This is painful. What can I do to care for myself in this moment of suffering?”
When self-compassion is the last thing you want to think about, then don’t. Instead, as Miller suggests, consider how you can navigate your suffering. Consider how you can care for yourself. And give yourself that.