For caregivers, having compassion for others is the easy part. What’s hard is showing that same compassion for ourselves. Instead, we’re often our own worst critic.
But the next time you feel like kicking yourself for something you did or didn’t do, stop and think: How would you treat a friend in a similar situation? Would you be quick to judge and criticize, or would you show kindness and support?
If it’s the latter, then don’t you deserve to show yourself the same kind of compassion? Of course, you do.
Self-care, self-kindness, self-esteem and self-compassion – they all walk hand in hand. The Greeks called it “philautia” or love of self. They understood that this kind of self-love – not the destructive, narcissistic kind – is a necessity before we can really provide love to others.
Self-compassion allows us to recognize our flaws and limitations without judgment, and to express sympathy and support for ourselves the same way we do for others. Researcher Kristen Neff says self-compassion has three components: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. It can do wonders to improve your self-esteem. And it can truly change your life.
If you want to start being your own best friend, here are some ways to increase your self-compassion:
Whenever you start thinking or talking negatively about yourself, turn it around. Ask yourself, “If I loved myself, what would I say to myself right now?”
Notice what is causing you to NOT show self-compassion. Are you punishing yourself for some infraction that only you perceive, or for not meeting an expectation that was unrealistic to begin with?
Balance your self-criticism by complimenting yourself for positive achievements, such as taking a risk, trying your best, and attaining goals – small or large.
And remember, you’re not alone. Many caregivers face similar challenges.
You already know how your compassion helps others. Just turn some of it toward yourself and see what self-compassion can do for you!