Loving yourself can seem like an impossible task because we are really good at judging ourselves. We judge and criticize our looks, what we say, how we feel, how we act. In fact, we usually wouldn’t say our darkest thoughts about ourselves to our worst enemy. Some of these thoughts we may have even had since we were a kid. It almost seems as though it’s hardwired into our brain. But how we treat ourselves makes a big difference to our overall health. So where do you start? How do you start to love yourself?
Compassion. Having compassion for ourselves can decrease depression, anxiety, and even shame. Before practicing for yourself, I invite you to think about an experience where you have had compassion for someone else. What did compassion look like? You don’t have to have the same experience as someone to recognize and empathize with their suffering. When someone is suffering, our compassion towards them allows us to respond with kindness, with care and without judgement. It allows us to understand what they are going through regardless of their failures or mistakes. Compassion allows a space for human connection with someone which is what we’re all really looking for, right?
Self-compassion is the exact same thing but turned on to ourselves; having kindness and understanding for your suffering, without judgement or criticism. It also includes being kind and understanding to yourself, even when you fail or make a mistake. It allows a space for a genuine connection to yourself. Next time you experience suffering or emotional distress, instead of judging yourself, try finding compassion. Maybe you put your hand on
your heart or say some phrase of understanding and kindness. Maybe you treat yourself to something nice, or even simply allow yourself a space to feel the emotions you’re feeling. When in doubt, think about what you would say or do if someone you love came to you when they were suffering, and then do it for yourself!
We are all human, we all have short-comings and we all deserve compassion. We deserve compassion from others, and from ourselves. This Valentine’s Day I invite everyone to open your heart to yourself and celebrate your common humanity.
For more information about Self-Compassion and how to practice:
Kaitlyn Patterson, MA, LPA is a mental health therapist at Chrysalis Center who helps her clients learn to be compassionate toward themselves as they find recovery. To schedule your first appointment with Kaitlyn, call our office at (910) 790-9500 today.