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Last Updated on March 16, 2020

Why Self-Compassion Is More Important Than Self-Esteem

Why Self-Compassion Is More Important Than Self-Esteem

If your best friend stood you up for a date at the movies, would you be forgiving and understanding when he/she explained what happened?

If you made that same mistake to your best friend, would you be forgiving and understanding of your own mistake? Would you mentally beat yourself up for days or would you just chalk it up to human error and circumstances?

That ability for you to be understanding of your own mistakes in life is self-compassion.

Do you give more consideration for others when they make mistakes than you do for yourself? If you do, then your need to evaluate your self-compassion, as it has a huge impact on your mental well being.

We Can Have Good Self-Esteem but Little Self-Compassion

You may have good self-esteem, meaning you think you are a person of value and therefore you believe in your abilities. However, you can have good self-esteem, but without self-compassion you will struggle to accept your failures as human error or circumstantial.

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Without self-compassion, you will be extremely hard on yourself and your personal mistakes, which therefore will affect your self-esteem negatively. If you always criticize yourself when bad things happen, then your mental health can also be adversely affected. Not being too hard on yourself, or having self-compassion is essential to your mental well being, so you better know if you have it or not.

Self-Compassion Is the Ability to Be Understanding Toward Yourself

Having good self-compassion means that you are understanding and considerate toward yourself, as you would be for a dear friend. Often in life, people are hard on themselves, hoping that it will propel them to greater success.

Theories of self-compassion explain that your success is more likely to happen if you have good self-compassion. The reason is because you are more likely to survive set backs, mistakes, and trials with a greater ability to rebound, get back up and try again because you are self-compassionate.

Dr. Kristen Neff is a a world renowned expert on self-compassion. She explains that self-compassion involves providing yourself with understanding when you fail:[1]

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Dr. Neff explains that three components make up self-compassion. Understanding these three components can help you understand whether you possess self compassion. These components include: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Instead of Being Overly Critical of Yourself, Be Kind to Yourself

In possessing self-kindness you are not judgmental toward yourself or your failings. It also means that you aren’t overly critical of yourself. You look at things realistically, but allow yourself to accept failure as part of the human process. If you don’t allow yourself self-kindness and instead are judgmental of yourself, you will experience negative consequences. Scientific American examined self-compassion and explained the result of self-judgment on an individual’s mental health:[2]

“Unfortunately, self-criticism can lead to generalized hostility (toward oneself and others), anxiety and depression; these are problems that can handicap people from reaching their full potential.”

Instead of Indulging in Sadness, Recognize That Suffering Happens to Everyone of Us

Common humanity is the second component associated with self-compassion. This is simply your ability to recognize your life’s ups and downs as something that happen to all people. Dr. Neff describes common humanity as “recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience”. Life ups and downs happen to all people. If you think they are happening to only you or that your pain is not also felt by others experiencing the same or similar situations, then you are isolating yourself. Recognizing that suffering in life happens to all people, including yourself, is part of having self-compassion.

Instead of Suppressing Your Emotions, Acknowledge Them

The third component to having self-compassion is mindfulness. According to Dr. Neff this involves:

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“a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them”.

For some this would be considered having emotional intelligence. It is the ability to acknowledge your feelings and emotions, but not wallowing in them. Repressing your feelings does not help you with self-compassion. You need to allow yourself to experience emotions, but with an awareness that your emotions should not swallow you up.

To Build Your Self-Compassion, Stop Being so Critical of Yourself

Lack of self-compassion is tied to being overly critical of oneself. Just like most aspects of self identity they are often tied to childhood. How we were spoken to or treated as a child can have a great impact on our self-compassion. If you were told “you are useless”‘or “you can’t do anything right” on a regular basis as a child, you may carry those thoughts and memories with you into adulthood. Even if you don’t believe those words for yourself today, they can subconsciously or unconsciously impact your ability to be compassionate with yourself. Also meaning, if you fail, those criticisms of being useless or unable to do anything right may come back to haunt you, whether they are conscious thoughts or unconscious thoughts.

Therapy can be a great help in uncovering those defeating statements that may be feeding your soul and mind when you fail. Those defeating statements are preventing you from being compassionate toward yourself. Consider therapy if you lack self-compassion and especially if you can’t identify the core cause. Identifying the core cause can help you dispel and discredit those harmful words previously spoken about you or to you.

There is a self-compassion assessment which let you find out how well you personally provide compassion to yourself. You can try the test here: Self-Compassion Assessment and take the following steps to love yourself better.

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Emma Seppala[3] identified some practical ways that you can help you boost your self-compassion today. Here are her tips:

    Self-compassion may come easier to some and more difficult for others. It is an important component of your well being that is worth taking the time and effort to improve upon.

    “…research suggests that self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By tapping into our inner wellsprings of kindness, acknowledging the shared nature of our imperfect human condition, we can start to feel more secure, accepted, and alive.”[4]

    Dr. Neff eloquently summarizes the greatest benefit of self-compassion, which in essence is acceptance of ones self, imperfections and all.

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    Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

    The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids single parenting How to Manage Single Parenting Positively The Effects of Divorce on Children No Parents Should Ignore 11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It) How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again

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    Last Updated on October 14, 2020

    Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

    Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

    Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

    “Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

    It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

    You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

    Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

    Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

    Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

    1. Make a Gratitude List

    In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

    Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

    Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

    What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

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    The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

    Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

    2. Write in a Journal

    Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

    All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

    Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

    However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

    3. Meditate

    Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

    Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

    Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

    Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

    Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

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    Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

    Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

    4. Do Child’s Pose

    Yoga Outlet says:

    “Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

    When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

    It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

    To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

    Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

       

      Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

      5. Try Positive Self-Talk

      Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

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      When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

      Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

      When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

      When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

      Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

      6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

      Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

      You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

      It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

      Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

      If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

      7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

      “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

      If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

      You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

      When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

      If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

      Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

      Final Thoughts

      If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

      Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

      You can invest in yourself via self-care.

      You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

      More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

      Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

      Reference

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