What It Really Means to Have 'Self-Compassion'

If you are like me, “self-compassion” sounds so much more feasible than “self-love” or even “self-care.” Neither of those things are bad, and all three basically mean exactly the same, but when you are already struggling with a low sense of self, the thought of loving or caring for yourself can feel very selfish or have other negative connotations.

I struggle constantly against the guilt of needing to take the time to care for my own emotional needs, and the thought of loving myself makes me feel rather nauseated. Compassion though — compassion speaks my language. While I can happily list off a long reel of negative things about myself, I would tell you undoubtedly that I am, or at the very least strive to be, a compassionate and empathetic person. Maybe others who feel uncertain about their ability to practice love and care towards themselves could feel the same way; to have compassion for others and oneself is not a selfish or negative thing, but it is a basic human right.

To have self-compassion means to be kind to myself — “It is OK to feel how I do; what I am going through right now is challenging and painful. I will be OK soon, but right now it is OK to be gentle on myself.”

To have self-compassion means accepting I am human — “Everybody struggles from time to time with negative feelings. I am not the only one, even if I might feel like I am at this moment.”

To have self-compassion means being mindful — “I am here in the present with these feelings. I can see my difficulties, but I have gotten through them before, and I can again.”

Self-compassion is not selfish or narcissistic. It is not judgmental.

Self-compassion is to offer ourselves the same caring and thoughtfulness that we would give to others — “It is OK to listen to my body and do what is healthy for me when I need it. If I need to rest today or change plans, it is acceptable for me to do so.”

Self-compassion allows us to step back from the situation without becoming overwhelmed — “I can accept that this situation is making me feel [insert negative emotion here], but the reality is different to how I am feeling. It is OK for me to step back and seek help to get through this.”

Self-compassion is not critical; it is most definitely not self-pity or self-indulgence.

There is a well-known saying that proclaims “You cannot pour from an empty cup” — self-compassion is a way of filling that cup to the brim so that we can share with those who are in need. To nurture ourselves so that we can give to others is an honorable thing to do. In no way is that selfish or narcissistic. Allowing healing for myself in this way does not feel like an indulgence; it feels more like a necessity. I am coming to understand and accept that to have compassion for myself will allow me to be more compassionate and helpful to others, to be attentive to their needs and to be able to assist them in their challenges. That is something I am excited to do.

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