By, now we’ve all heard the term “self care.” You may have heard it explained with quotes like, “You cannot pour from an empty cup,” or “You must put your oxygen mask first, before you can assist other passengers.” That is all great information, and very true. While self care is specific ways to take care of yourself, from the mundane like making sure your space is tidy, to splurges like a day at the spa, self compassion is more of a way of being.
Self compassion, as I define it, is fine tuning that voice inside your head to speak to yourself as you would a loved one. Extensive research has shown that the power of self compassion reaches farther than having high self esteem and those that are high on the self compassion scale are more productive and tend to procrastinate less. I would say that is a super power for any dream chaser and change maker!
1 Little Exercise Before we Dive In!
Stay with me, because before we get into the 5 ways to cultivate self compassion in your life we are going to do a little exercise. Think of the last time that you did not live up to your own expectations. What did you say to yourself? Really take a second to think of the self talk you used. I’ll be waiting right here.
Okay! Now I want you to think of someone you love very much, maybe your partner, your best friend, or a parent. Would you EVER speak to them the way you spoke to yourself? Probably not. Maybe you said something cruel about your appearance, or marked yourself a failure. These are lies and are not serving you in reaching your highest potential. Negative self talk does not motivate you to persevere, nor does it bring you any closer to joy or fulfillment. While self compassion is a way of being kinder and gentler with yourself, it is no means giving you an “out” to slack and not get things done.
So where do you start? Well, read on and I’ll tell ya.
1. Define your values.
Now is a great time to dust off that old notebook or journal that’s been laying around your bedroom and write or even draw symbols of what is REALLY important to you. What is the driving force in your life? What are you striving for? Where do your priorities lie right now? If you are a student, why do you show up for class and complete your assignments? If you are a parent, what is the vision you see for your family? Perhaps you are an entrepreneur trying to grow your business. Whatever your circumstances may be, take this time to explore your “why.”
Being well oriented with your values will help guide and anchor you. When life gets complicated and important decisions have to be made, falling back on what is really important to you can be a helpful tool.
2. Nip Negative Self Talk in the Bud
We can say awful things to ourselves and not even think twice about it. I will challenge you here to be more conscious of that– I don’t want you saying mean things about my friend! So, you, my friend, make an effort to notice when you are using unkind words to speak to yourself. We train our brains, and while making a new habits like this we create new pathways in our brain.
When you do catch yourself, take a pause and ask yourself, “Is there another way I can say that?” For example, if you did not land a job you really wanted, or a presentation did not go the way you had hoped, instead of saying, “I am such a failure,” you could say, “I did my best and I have learned from this experience.” You tweak this to your specific circumstances, and make sure the kinder words you chose are also true. You want to believe in those empowering words.
The more you catch yourself and the more you practice speaking kindly to yourself, the more natural it will become. This is scientific fact folks!
3. Keep Calm and Use an Affirmation
An affirmation is simple statement often used to uplift and motivate and can be a really useful tool in cultivating more self compassion. There are tons and tons of affirmations online you can access with a quick google search, for example, “affirmations for a positive body image,” or “affirmations for bringing wealth into my life.” You can also write your own that is custom tailored to you. I think that makes it all the more empowering. You can repeat your affirmation to yourself as often as you like.
Find or write one or a few that speak to you and make them visible. Sticky notes are your friend! Often, I will suggest my clients stick their affirmations on their desks or work spaces, in the mirrors in their bathrooms, on their bedroom wall, or wherever they experience negative self talk the most. For clients who feel a little strange that people may see their affirmation I suggest they keep it handy on their phone and stick a blank sticky just as a private reminder to themselves to use their affirmation.
Examples: I am powerful and loved. | I am enough. | My body is a gift that carries me through life. | Everyday I am attracting money into my life.
4. Touch Yourself!
I am not being funny here. Touch releases oxytocin, a chemical in our brain connected with love and positive feelings. When you feel like you need a boost you can give yourself a hug. It may sound strange, but again, we can’t argue with science! Stroke your arm, give yourself a little squeeze and release that oxytocin!
5. Yes, and Self Care!
Although self compassion and self care are not interchangeable terms, self care certainly would fall under the umbrella of self compassion. If self compassion means treating yourself as you would a loved one, taking time to meet your needs is essential.
What your self care looks like is up to you, as you are the expert on you! Mine ranges from making sure I am staying connected to friends and family to making sure I pick up my prescriptions are filled and picked up on time. If you want more information on what self care and what it may look like for you, again, google is our trusty friend. Maybe it is yoga and mediation, maybe it’s more sleep and well-rounded eating. Maybe you are a busy parent and it is setting boundaries to make sure you’ve had the time to bathe and sit down for a meal. The point is, ask yourself what you need and prioritize that.
Dr. Kristen Neff (literally) wrote the book on self compassion. For more in depth information and the research behind this stuff head to her website: https://self-compassion.org/.
By Alé Cardinalle | LMSW Candidate NYU 2019