One of your most powerful tools for living a life of health and happiness is practicing self-compassion.
Self-compassion has three main components (1):
- Being caring and understanding with yourself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental.
- Recognizing that your own flawed nature is part of a shared human imperfect condition.
- Being aware of your present experience, neither ignoring nor ruminating on what you dislike about yourself or your life.
Self-compassion is associated with less perceived stress, healthier physical stress response and emotion regulation, and engaging in behaviors like exercise and healthy eating, sleep hygiene, smoking cessation, self-care, and medical adherence (2).
Additionally, self-compassion has been shown to positively affect psychosocial outcomes like rumination, depression, mindfulness, self-criticism, and anxiety (3).
The reasons self-compassionate individuals report better physical and mental health and greater engagement in health-promoting behavior are thought to be (4):
- Greater motivation to pursue health goals.
- Adaptive coping strategies that help them move toward these goals.
- Self-kindness that drives the desire to take care of their bodies.
- Understanding that everyone makes mistakes, fails to reach goals, and experiences misfortune.
- Less self-criticism, shame, and stress that might make them give up or quit.
The first step in cultivating self-compassion is to establish a mindfulness practice like meditation.
This will help you identify things you say, think, or feel about yourself that lack self-compassion.
Next, when you notice such patterns, remind yourself that you are imperfect.
Internalize that you are a work in progress, and that all you can do is try to be a bit better.
Remember that it’s okay to just do the best you can, because that’s all you’ll ever be able to do.
Work to accept that your best will fall far short of perfect, no matter what you do.
Finally, understand that this will take time.
You won’t change overnight.
You will struggle.
Keep showing up.
Keep putting in the work.
Keep doing whatever you can.
That’s all you can do.
You’ve got this.