Learning to Practice Self-Compassion

Have you gotten into the habit of bashing and beating yourself up?  Do you find yourself cursing, accusing, judging and belittling yourself?  It’s easy to become totally negative in your self-assessment in any given situation.  The problem is that your thoughts, words and attitudes about yourself negatively affect your life, your future and your entire being!

The same is true when we look at our bodies – our face, hair, body shape, physical condition, etc.  We curse and complain about our bodies and unduly stress them with physical activity, lack of rest or other abusive activities. We then complain when we are in pain and our body is not living up to our expectations.

Research has found that self-criticism, accusation and overly judging oneself will sabotage and steal your inner peace, rest and relationships, and it will dramatically deplete and weaken your physical, emotional and spiritual health.  It leads to lowered self-esteem, anxiety, self-hate, depression … the whole Unloving Spirit gang.  It sets up our physical bodies for disease and sickness.  It affects the production of hormones and chemicals in our brain and bodies with dramatic negative effects.  (If you’ve attended a Restoring Your Life Conference, you’ll remember that we teach about the Mind Body Connection, the Body, Soul and Spirit and the underlying scriptural basis.)

The sad truth is that many believers and non-believers don’t know how to love, nurture or show kindness and compassion to themselves!  We rarely even THINK about showing ourselves or our physical bodies love, grace, compassion and kindness. When we do, we scold ourselves for being self-centered, selfish, self-indulgent, wimpy or full of pride.  An equally bad alternative is when we blame others and fall into a deep pit of self-pity and victimization.  A healthy alternative is to practice self-compassion.

Self-compassion is treating yourself the same way you would treat a loved one struggling with a similar situation.  Practicing self-compassion has been linked to a greater sense of well-being, peace, better emotional coping skills and compassion for others.

Here are some practical steps you can take to treat yourself with love and kindness!

  1. Show yourself kindness: Be kind, gentle and understanding with yourself when you are suffering, under stress, upset or disappointed.  Acknowledge that when you mess up and make mistakes … it’s OKAY!  Forgive and love yourself and move forward.  Be honest with yourself, your emotions and your feelings.  Acknowledge and admit that you are suffering – that it hurts emotionally and/or physically and the situation is really hard.  Invite the Holy Spirit to tend to your hurts and feelings.
  2. Comfort yourself with a physical gesture: Kind physical gestures have an immediate effect on our bodies, activating the soothing parasympathetic system.  Physical gestures get your out of your head and into your body.  It may sound silly, but put your hand over your heart, or simply wrap your arms around your chest and hug yourself.  Take a hot bath with worship music and candles.  Do things that will soothe you … body, soul and spirit.
  3. Be honest with yourself: Be truthful with yourself and ask the Lord to help you see things exactly as they are – no more, no less.  Set aside emotions, shame, guilt, disappointment and self-pity.  Set aside rationalizing, justifying and criticizing yourself and others.  Take responsibility and forgive yourself and others.
  4. Give yourself recognition: Often, we’re quick to acknowledge the achievements of others, but slow to acknowledge our own.  Pause and become aware of your own achievements and give yourself credit.  When you do something you’re proud of, stop for a minute and recognize it.  Praise yourself and relish the achievement.  You deserve it!
  5. Realize that you are not the only one: When we’re struggling, we tend to feel especially isolated, alone and different from the rest of the human race.  You have to remember that everyone experiences loss, hurt, pain and betrayal at some points in their lives.  You need to stop the negative chatter in your head and reframe the negative messages into God’s truth.Try practicing positive self-talk to step out of the self-pity and victim mindset.
    – These current struggles are just temporary!  This too shall pass.
    – This is part of life.  God is growing, stretching and helping me!
    – Welcome to the human race!  Everyone experiences stuff like this.
    – Many people are going through a whole lot worse!
    – Others have made it through to the other side victorious and I will too!
  6. Realize you are NOT ALONE in your struggles. God is with you.  All of heaven is supporting you.  The Holy Spirit is helping you to achieve victory in this difficulty.  What the enemy has meant for evil, God will turn for good!  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives …  (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
  7. Practice Thankfulness: Thank God EVERY DAY, OUT LOUD, for who God made you to be, your life, personality, your salvation, friends, relationships, value, identity, destiny, your body, parents and opportunities.  Thank God for His hand on your life.  Practice the self-talk I described above by saying thankful, kind, loving, accepting, encouraging, compassionate words and phrases over yourself.  Remind yourself of your good qualities.

Here’s a good exercise to help you incorporate self-compassion into your life.

Quiet yourself before God for several minutes.
– Ask Holy Spirit to help you speak words of love, compassion and encouragement to yourself concerning a given situation.
– Use physical gestures to sooth and comfort your body.
– Release and forgive yourself of anything that might be troubling you.
– Tell your body, soul and spirit that you are safe right now.
– Give yourself credit for the positive things you are accomplishing and your good qualities.
– Thank Father God for His love.

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