Do you tell people, maybe your children, “You are special? You are smart? You are amazing?” Do you send yourself similar messages? But, wait! These lines are not necessarily the best for anyone’s development of healthy self-esteem, confidence, compassion or self-compassion.
Believing You are smart, may be true or not. Numerous and recent research projects indicate that intelligence is not the main indicator of success. Plus, it belies the fact that most of us have an average intelligence. That’s what the Wechsler Intelligence Scale indicates. Most us are normal, average human beings! That doesn’t mean we can not do exceptional acts.
Believing You are special (or amazing) can encourage narcissism, a sense of privilege, and arrogance. No one is more special than another. Of course, most of us are special to a special loved one.
Regrettably, the self-esteem movement went side-ways when many parents began to use these expletives of perfection in a culture filled with competitiveness. They falsely placed the receiver at the top of the human race hierarchy. So, instead of building ourselves and others up with perfectionistic cliches what are the alternatives?
The two main messages that build healthy self-esteem and self-concept are:
1) You are lovable and
2) You are capable.
The first declaration requires no performance. All babies are lovable just the way they are. And we stay lovable. The second statement, You are capable, requires a journey to discover our gifts, passions and strengths. And then we need a willingness to use those gifts to make a meaningful difference.
And of course, I add, You are resilient as we can all benefit from the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges.
As human beings we will make errors. In order for us to bounce back from those errors we need a dose of, guess what?
Compassion and Self-Compassion is the Answer
The Cambridge Dictionary define compassion as
a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them.”
The Oxford dictionary used the word pity to mean compassion. I didn’t like that. Who wants to be pitied? I would like us to substitute the word empathy in the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition for sympathy. I prefer to think of compassion as having empathy for other people’s pain and misfortune, usually by no act of their own.
The suffering of children in countries who practice child-labor or child-marriages requires us to have nothing less than compassion. Of course therapists are trained to feel and show their empathy and compassion for clients who come to them for emotional healing.
For some of us the idea of self-compassion may be more challenging. Can we sit still with empathy for our emotional pain? Kristin Neff, the author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, suggests we practice the ability to think and act kindly towards ourselves.
She proposes that how we attempt to boost self-esteem, as described above, can indeed become problematic. She points out that if we use comparisons to boost our worth, self-esteem becomes a competitive race. We then are repeatedly attempting to be and to do one better than others. And when we do not find ourselves at the top, we view ourselves as less-than and unworthy.
What Self-Compassion Can Do for You
Here is what self-compassion can do for you. It helps us look at ourselves and others as merely human. With increased self-compassion comes self-acceptance of our weaknesses, mistakes and personality flaws. Then that results in increased self-responsibility. We can tell ourselves, “Yes, I made a mistake that hurt others. I will forgive myself and make amends.”
Those with well developed self-compassion embrace their inner critic. They do not fear it. They view the inner-critic with resilience and engage in dialogue with the snarly voice inside.
Deepen your self-compassion by treating yourself like a compassionate, caring and kind parent.
6 Tips to Deepen Your Self-Compassion
- When you do not want to do something that is ultimately healthy for you, arrange to give yourself a reward after
- Talk about some of your accomplishments.
- Protect yourself from others who are not kind, supportive, and compassionate.
- Regularly, do something kind and comforting for yourself. Take a bubble bath, nap or eat a bowl of tapioca pudding.
- Develop some loving self-talk. Tell yourself, “You are lovable. You can do it. You deserve a rest.” The next time your inner- critic starts chattering respond with, “Awe, I hear you. Poor dear!” Please avoid a sarcastic tone to this one! OK?
- Celebrate your accomplishments and, some days, celebrate that you got out of bed.
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
What do you do to practice self-compassion?