Why self-compassion is not self-indulgence.

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 “I’m so much nicer to everyone but myself.” 

 “I would never be so harsh with someone I loved.”

“I would never be this mean to a friend.” 

 

I hear these words from clients, friends and strangers.  It's hard to be gentle with ourselves.  But why?  

Self-compassion may feel strange or self-indulgent.  We believe that if we don't yell at ourselves, things won’t get done right.  There will be deadlines missed.  Tasks half-finished.  

We believe we won't be enough.  

So let's look at the research. Dr. Kristin Neff is a leading expert on self-compassion and self-esteem.  She explains that when we sharply criticize ourselves, we fire up our “fight or flight” system—the system that tells us we are under threat. 

Our bodies frantically pump more adrenaline and cortisol.  Anxiety shoots up, and over time, so do feelings of sadness.  

We attack ourselves at our most vulnerable.  Criticizing ourselves backfires.    

The good news is that self-compassion works differently.  Neff's research indicates that compassionate self-talk actually reduces cortisol levels.  Our bodies pump something much more soothing—the "hug hormone" known as oxytocin. 

Self-compassion allows us to think more clearly, connect more easily with others and produce our best work.  

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You can take a self-compassion break.  This very moment, with me. 

Exercises courtesy of Dr. Kristin Neff at self-compassion.org

First, think of a situation in your life that is difficult or painful.  Feel where the stress is heavy in your body.  Notice how you’re breathing. 

Say to yourself:  This hurts.  Right now, this hurts. 

Put your hands over your heart.  Close your eyes.  Listen to your breathing again.  This is mindfulness. 

Say to yourself:  May I be kind to myself.  

May I give myself the compassion that I need in this moment. 

May I forgive myself.

 

You can practice anytime, anywhere.  

Wishing you moments of self-compassion and warmth,

Jenny