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How to be self-compassionate: ‘People can be really tough on themselves’

Being kinder to ourselves has many advantages, including reduced anxiety and depression

What is self compassion?

When you talk to yourself, what do you say? If your internal monologue is snippy and critical, it might be time to retrain that voice. Being self-compassionate means being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we fail or feel inadequate, rather than being critical.

Why is it good for us?

Self-compassion has lots of benefits, research shows, including lower levels of anxiety and depression. Self-compassionate people recognise when they are suffering and are kind to themselves.

How can we practice self-compassion?

It's about not being so hard on yourself, says career and wellbeing coach Ciara Spillane. "I find with a lot of clients, they can be critical of their career narrative. People feel they have failed somehow, that they are not at the level they want to be at, or they didn't take up opportunities years ago they should have, or that they stayed in a company for too long. Some people can be really tough on themselves." To cultivate more self-compassion, try giving yourself the same kindness and care you would give to a good friend. "Try talking to yourself as you would a friend. Think about how your nicest friend would look at your CV. They would tell a totally different narrative about you."

Journaling is another useful tactic, says Spillane. “Pick something you are going through at the moment, something you are being tough on yourself about and write down what your friend would say about it. Or if your friend was going through it, what would you say to them?” This practice can give events perspective and help us to develop a kinder inner voice.

But what if I did make a mistake?

Everybody makes mistakes and that’s what makes us human. Self-compassion helps us to cultivate this perspective. “Mindfulness is really good for self-compassion because part of self-compassion is being able to sit with our thoughts and emotions non-judgmentally,” says Spillane.

She recommends looking online for a loving kindness meditation, a practice of Buddhist origin which aims to cultivate unconditional kind attitudes toward oneself and others.

Sharing is caring

If you feel bad about a perceived gaff, sharing your feelings with others can help too. “Sharing how you feel about something can be really powerful because then you realise, actually, everyone feels a bit like this.”

What are the benefits?

Being too afraid to make a mistake can stunt your growth. Self-compassion helps us to cultivate a growth mindset where we believe that with hard work and good strategies, our talents will continue to grow and develop. Those with a growth mindset tend to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset.

“If we are more compassionate towards ourselves when we make a mistake, then we will feel more comfortable putting ourselves out there again,” says Spillane. “If you make a mistake in your work presentation, if you can talk to yourself with kindness, you are probably going to go and make another presentation again and not feel so nervous about it.”

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