Self love is a concept that makes people uneasy. It evokes images of narcissism and selfishness. Recently there has been a shift away from encouraging the enhancement of self esteem, especially in children. It is seen as indulgent and as having a counter productive impact by inflating the ego and making children too focused on their own needs and less interested in the needs and well being of others.
Instead of pandering to the trivial needs of individuals, psychologists are now looking at ways that people can face life’s challenges in a more productive and selfless way. This not only has a beneficial influence on the individual; by making them more resilient and self nurturing, it also greatly enhances the cohesion of society as a whole; by making people more empathetic and less self interested.
The concept of self-compassion…
“…involves being touched by and open to one’s own suffering, not avoiding or disconnecting from it, generating the desire to alleviate one’s suffering and to heal oneself with kindness. Self-compassion also involves offering non-judgmental understanding to one’s pain, inadequacies and failures, so that one’s experience is seen as part of the larger human experience.” Kristin Neff, University of Texas
The most important way to conquer self-compassion is to practice mindfulness. This means being aware of what or who has had a destructive influence on our emotions and understanding that our response is justified and valid. Once we approach our pain with kindness and promote a constructive perspective to our struggle, we can begin to heal.
Here are 4 scientifically supported things that will happen when you are capable of self-compassion:
Self-compassion allows us to open ourselves up to confronting our pain with patience and sensitivity. It also helps us to regulate our emotions, so that we experience them in a balanced and healthy way. Their intensity and duration are managed and we don’t shy away from them, but at the same time control ourselves from over indulging.
The more notice you take of your feelings and where they fit into the scope of reality, the more mindful you will become.
Reflecting on your emotions and the feelings of others enhances your propensity to empathize. You will not only recognize your response to adverse and difficult situations, but you will also learn to be more aware of the suffering of others. Practicing sensitivity becomes a new habit. You no longer compare yourself with envy or begrudge the success of others; you instead take pleasure in others’ accomplishments and lament their losses.
When experiencing adversity, people tend to perceive this as failure and fall into the trap of self criticism. We often compare ourselves to others, which when at a low point, further perpetuates our feelings of inadequacy and disappointment in ourselves. This then becomes cyclical. The worse we judge ourselves, the lower we feel and then denigrate ourselves further.
Self-compassion forces you to let go. You will find peace in your circumstances whether they happen to be pleasant or heartbreaking. Understanding that everything is temporary makes the present moment all the more valuable because it is fleeting. The worst becomes bearable and the best becomes magical.
When you practice self-compassion you will become more flexible and willing to experience all the diversity that life has to offer. You not only look forward to change, you seek it out because this is what growth and development are all about. Change is difficult and requires commitment and energy and when you become willing to expend effort into personal development you also learn how to stop and take stock of your life. Rest is imperative and learning to be still in the present moment long enough to love who and where you are; without indulgence, this is what inner peace feels like.
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