Emily Stone, LICSW, social worker and Senior Clinical Strategist at Mightier
I recently learned about the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, on a podcast.
For years, I have worked with kids, teens, and adults in my practice to learn positive self-talk but was intrigued to hear about self-compassion.
For most people, showing compassion for others is pretty easy. If you see someone get hurt, go through a difficult time, or just need to be cheered up you know what to do. You can help them sort through the next steps, sit with them and listen, cook them something yummy, give them a hug, or many other things.
When it comes to being compassionate with ourselves, it can be an entirely different story. It is easy when we are having a tough time to think things like “I should be doing better” or “You need to cheer up.”
Like many others throughout the pandemic, I have struggled with my anxiety more than usual. As someone who typically struggles with worry but has found ways to navigate it, I have been extremely hard on myself that my anxiety has been higher than usual. I have thought things like, “You know how to deal with this, you should not be having this hard of a time” at least a few times a day.
For some reason, we tend to be the least compassionate with ourselves. Even though we know we are having a hard time, it can be hard to take care of ourselves how we would want to treat others who are in the same situation.
Self-compassion focuses on extending compassion to yourself when you feel inadequate, failure, or general suffering.
This can be in the form of something like stopping those more negative self-talk thoughts changing them to more compassionate thoughts or self-talk like, “This is a hard time,” “You are doing the best you can,” or “You are doing great.”
It can be practicing some additional self-care like you would for a friend. Maybe you make a nice, comforting homemade meal. Maybe you watch your favorite movie and eat a favorite snack. Just doing something nice for yourself and enjoying can be helpful.
This can also be taking time to listen to yourself and your thoughts without judgment. Try writing in a journal, take a walk, or talk out loud. Listen to your thoughts and your feelings, just like a friend or family member, and don’t judge yourself. It is okay to feel whatever you are feeling.
This week I will try to remind myself that it is okay, and completely normal, to feel anxious. Things are tough, but I am tougher.