We’ve all heard of self-compassion. Some may call it self-love but I prefer the term being compassionate (or kind) to oneself. We are all deserving of kindness and compassion, regardless of where we are in our self-love journey.
Loving ourselves ain't easy and I fully believe that compassion and kindness need to come first.
I first heard of the term ‘self-compassion’ a few years ago. I had just ended a horrible, emotionally abusive relationship and still found my inner critic mimicking the insults and abuse from my ex-partner. Deep down I’d known I wasn’t anything like the insults he threw at me, but after 2 years of putting up with it on an almost a daily basis, it was hard to ignore. And, I mean, he was my partner for two whole years, he loved me and saw me for who I was…so there must have been some truth to it, right? Well, no. Once I was out of that relationship, I was finally able to see what a toxic environment it had been.
Even after the relationship had ended, I was still the target of his abuse via text message and social media. This made it extremely difficult to deal with my inner critic while I was still being told what a bad person I was.
It was one day, months after it had ended, my housemate at the time said to me “would you speak to your best friend the way you speak to yourself?”. It sounded so simple. In my 25 years alive that thought had never crossed my mind! Those words changed my life.
Although it took a couple more years for me to finally have the courage to be compassionate to myself, this phrase was always at the back of my mind and I was consciously trying to make an effort to be kinder to myself.
At the beginning of 2017, I would fall into a deep, dark depressive episode. As a result, I was unable to continue full-time work. I could barely get out of bed or have a shower most days. For months I felt immense guilt that I was unable to earn an income to contribute to our household. I would berate myself for not being strong enough to deal with work and having to rely on my partner for support. My inner critic was in overdrive at this point. Every day she would tell me how stupid I was. And lazy, hopeless and unworthy.
Being angry at myself for being depressed was a vicious cycle. This only made the depression worse. I had allowed my inner critic to take over my life. This was the time I needed kindness and compassion the most but I had negative Nancy in my head, hurling insults at me left, right and centre! I knew if I was going to get better, I had to make an effort to shush her up.
So, with the aid of therapists and my own personal research, my journey to compassionate kindness began.
If I was having a poor mental health day, rather than criticise myself, I would change my inner dialogue to “I am doing the best I can in this moment”.
I began to accept that being mentally ill wasn’t my fault. By letting go of the blame and acknowledging that things were and had been tough in the past for me, I was able to show myself compassion for feeling the way I did. I allowed myself to feel negative emotions without my inner critic telling me how hopeless I was.
Being self-compassionate was especially important for me when I began recovery from my eating disorder last year.
Some days I was feeling like I wasn’t making any progress and that I was a failure, but then I would remind myself that actually, I am trying – I’m okay and I am enough at this moment.
Just the smallest of statements can make the biggest of differences. Practice speaking to yourself with kindness and you will notice the changes. Start small, aim for once a day and then you’ll notice you’re doing it without any prompts.
Here are some of my favourite mantras or you can even come up with your own!
I am worthy of kindness and compassion.
I forgive myself.
Today I will treat myself with kindness.
I accept myself as I am in this moment.
I am not alone, we all struggle sometimes.