3 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion and Stop Being Your Own Biggest Bully

RAFT Team, April 4, 2022

A recent survey revealed that 68% of people consider themselves compassionate. And you’re probably one of them! Compassion helps you relate to other people and the things they’re experiencing. The more you practice that empathy, the more you want to. And practicing compassion helps ease your own fears and insecurities.

Here are some other great facts about compassion:

  • It makes you happy (happier than buying things for yourself!)
  • It makes you more attractive
  • Compassion lifts everyone around you
  • It spreads rapidly
  • It improves your health and makes you live longer
  • Compassion reduces anxiety and depression
  • It gives you more time. (Volunteering makes you feel you have more time and more money.)

But for some reason, aiming that compassion focus on yourself is a whole different story. Practicing self-compassion is difficult for most people. (Unlike self-esteem, which is a comparative model that separates you from others and is used to determine worth, self-compassion focuses on your connection to others and the common humanity we all share. A self-compassion practice is vital for a healthy, more enjoyable.

Kristin Neff, associate professor at the University of Texas and pioneer of self-compassion, describes it this way: “Self-compassion is the ability to notice our own suffering and to be moved by it, making us want to actively do something to alleviate our own suffering.

How do you learn to practice self-compassion? There are 3 key steps:

1. Practice self-kindness instead of self-judgement.

Treat yourself as a friend.

It’s a good practice to stop yourself every once in a while and ask yourself, “Is this how I would treat a friend?” If not, add some more love and gentleness to your response to yourself. 

Practice self-compassion by taking care of yourself.

Make sure you take care of yourself: eat well, move often, and take time to enjoy things. Keep it balanced: you don’t want to deny yourself habitually or overindulge yourself. This goes for food, but over-exercising or over-spending can be damaging as well.

Give yourself room to grow.

Remember, you’re not perfect! If you’re not pleased with an outcome, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, affirm your effort and figure out how you might change things next time around. Learning is the best part of the process.

Reduce the stress you put on yourself.

Do you over-commit then stress about all the things you have to do? Or maybe you promise a special office treat or a homemade birthday cake when you know you don’t have time to bake it. Be realistic about what you have time and energy for, and let the rest go.

Practice self-compassion by building your support network

2. Recognize your common humanity instead of isolating yourself.

You’re not alone in this struggle, whatever it may be. While your own experiences may be unique, what you’re going through is part of the intertwined web of what it means to be human. While it’s easy to pull away when you’re going through something, let it be a reminder that there are people who want to support and encourage you. It’s okay to let them.

Be fair towards yourself.

Do you yell at yourself for things you haven’t learned yet? Give yourself the freedom to only take responsibility for the things you can control. This also applies to your responses. Don’t assume you’ll always respond to something a certain way — you have room to change and decide to be different.

Accept yourself for who you are.

Do you wish you were taller? Had better hair? Thinner? Stronger? Smarter? Lived in a different place? Instead of focusing on these things that are outside of your control, celebrate yourself for who you are. Embrace progress, no matter how slow it may feel. You have so much value!!

Realize struggle is normal.

Do you wish you’d finally arrive at the place where things were easy? Here’s a secret: struggling is normal. It’s part of life and growth and human relationships. A healthy gratitude practice can make your days brighter and your outlook more positive.

Continue to build your support network.

We aren’t meant to go it alone. Continue to build your support network. Make time for these interactions. Whether it’s coffee together or a quick phone call, stay in touch with people and share how life is going with one another.

3. To practice self-compassion, pursue mindful activities.

Step back from thoughts and emotions to regain perspective.

Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in your life and responses that you forget how close you are to yourself. When you’re feeling anxious or upset, remember to take a step back from your thoughts and emotions to regain a balanced perspective. Alone time works well for this!

Maybe today is going rough, but when you step back, you realize that most days are actually pretty okay. Maybe you feel stuck — perspective will remind you you can still make choices and change your direction if you want to.

Take a digital detox.

There’s nothing like a scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest to make us feel less-than. That comparing tendency hits hard, doesn’t it? If you’re feeling down or alone, a “social network” might feel like the obvious choice. But it makes you feel depressed! Instead, take a digital detox. Maybe it’s for an afternoon. Or every evening after 7p. Or you decide to limit your time on social media to 20 minutes a day. Maybe you decide step away for a few weeks. 

Practicing these 3 steps will help you boost your self-compassion. It puts you in the driver's seat regarding any suffering. Plus, you and everyone around you will benefit from your renewed love and appreciation for yourself.