Self-love or self-compassion seems to be the best kept secret to happiness.
I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, but I never really gave much thought to the importance of self-compassion. I mean I’ve heard the expressions, “You have to learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else” and “If you don’t love yourself, no one else will,” but, it never dawned on me that this was a “thing” until recently.
From what I’ve learned, it’s a pretty big “thing!” As mentioned in my previous post on vulnerability, things don’t always go well when we put ourselves out there. When we are reminded of our imperfections, we must treat ourselves with compassion.
I would say that in general, I like myself. I think I’m a pretty good person and I’m as kind as I can be to others. Isn’t that self-love? After all, if I paid any more attention to myself, I would just be conceited, right? I guess I’ve been focused on others and how to draw my attention outside of myself. Not anymore.
How do we treat ourselves?
When I really took stock of my negative self-talk and how unforgiving I can be with myself, I realized that I am my own worst critic. As painful as it is to admit, I’ve even felt hatred and shame for parts of myself.
I didn’t realize how damaging this could be until I read Kristin Neff’s work on the subject(selfcompassion.org).
Dr. Kristin Neff says that there are 3 core components to self-compassion:
- Common Humanity
To practice self-compassion we should treat ourselves with kindness rather than harsh, self-judgment, understand that our imperfections aren’t “abnormalities” that separate us from others, rather they are part of the shared human experience, and identify and accept when we are suffering in order to give ourselves the compassion that we need.
Although we may think that being self critical of ourselves actually motivates us to do better, Dr. Neff’s research actually shows the opposite.
Self-criticism actually undermines motivation.
This concept really intrigued me and gave me hope that I had the power and the understanding to change my negative thought patterns!
You can read about it in more detail on selfcompassion.org if you’d like, but Dr. Neff explains that being self-critical actually causes a fight or flight response (the threat is to our self-concept) where we attack the problem, which turns out to be ourselves!
She goes on to say that, “Self-compassion has been connected to decreased depression, anxiety and stress, and greater happiness and connectedness with others!” Yes, please!
Self-love = Overall Mental Health
With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.
Self-love is not about being self-absorbed or narcissistic, its about self-preservation.
Let’s show ourselves some love!