What is self-compassion?

Put simply, self-compassion is treating yourself with the same level of consideration, kindness, empathy, and care that you would offer a close friend or someone who you care deeply about. It lies in the way you speak to yourself when you are feeling emotional, whether that is sad, overwhelmed, defeated, angry, anxious, or any negative emotion.

Why is self-compassion important?

Many people attempt to motivate themselves with “shoulds”, “musts”, and other demands. For example you might say to yourself “I SHOULD exercise 3 times per week”, or “I MUSTN’T eat any chocolate”, or “I HAVE to get through everything on my to do list today”, or “I SHOULDN’T feel upset about making that mistake, I SHOULD just try harder”.

Many of us have an inner critic that is demanding, hard to please, and frankly counter-productive. Often the result is feeling stressed and defeated by the constant demands of our own mental chatter. It can also set you up for failure. Tasks can seem insurmountable and too daunting, then you may procrastinate to avoid the effort and potential disappointment of failing to live up to the expectations of your inner critic.

Even if you succeed in meeting the demands of the inner critic, it may never seem good enough. The inner critic finds a way to rob you of your sense of joy or accomplishment (you know, that niggling feeling that you still could have done better, there’s more to get on with so stop revelling in your success and celebrating and get moving…sound familiar?).

Where does this inner critic come from?

Children are naturally optimistic, they aren’t born with an inner drill sergeant. The inner critic develops over time from our environment through:

  • Learning habits from parents with similar inner critics (e.g., role modelling ways of criticising the self); or
  • Experiencing regular criticism yourself as a child from parents, siblings, peers, or teachers; or
  • More subtle experiences, for example you might have been praised and rewarded only when you achieved an A at school or when you took care of the needs of someone else; or
  • Maybe that inner critic is the voice of a parent, teacher, or bully; or
  • Maybe it’s a combination of different voices, experiences, or messages you’ve received over time that has become your own voice.

If your inner critic is strong, it’s likely that you have some unhelpful underlying beliefs. Beliefs such as:

“I should always make sure that others are happy before taking care of myself”

“I don’t belong anywhere”

“I’m not good enough”

“If I make a mistake then I’m a failure”.

These negative beliefs about yourself or others are powerful. They drive the way you speak to yourself, react to situations, and behave in relationships, school, or work. They make you vulnerable to beating yourself up if you make a mistake, say something silly, or feel emotionally overwhelmed.

If you struggle with self-criticism, low self-esteem, or perfectionism the friendly team at Your Psych Centre would love to help, please contact us to make an appointment.