From the CONCERN: EAP Resilience Library
Are you your own worst critic? Do you beat yourself up over perceived flaws, setbacks, and inadequacies? Harsh self-criticism can sabotage us, making us feel isolated, unhappy, and even more stressed. A healthier response is to treat yourself with compassion—that is, extend the same kindness and sympathy toward yourself as you would a family member or good friend. People who respond with compassion to their own mistakes and limitations have been shown to experience greater physical and emotional health.
Research indicates compassion is a trainable attribute, incorporating individual and social skills, such as mindfulness and emotional awareness.
Here are a few tips.
Cultivate self-compassion. Limit self-criticism. Be kind to yourself when you experience frustration or encounter personal shortcomings. Through acceptance, we naturally develop compassion and empathy towards others.
Learn to empathize. Attempt to see things clearly through another person’s perspective. Try to understand what that person is feeling in a given moment, and use that understanding to help guide your actions. By practicing empathy, you learn to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and in doing so, build deeper rapport and trust.
Be mindful. Without judgment, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings as they occur. By observing with openness and clarity, we are able to quiet our bodies and minds, balance negative emotions, and approach others from a calmer and more receptive place.
Forgive. Holding onto resentment and bitterness can wreak havoc on our emotional and physical well-being. By learning to forgive, we not only strengthen relationships, but also reduce toxic feelings of stress and anger, and make room in our lives for trust, healing, and increased optimism.
Set an example. Compassion is contagious. When you treat others with kindness, flexibility, and support, they are more likely to reciprocate and extend that same generosity toward others.
Establish compassion as a value. Take small steps to make a big difference. Show people you care—ask how they are doing, lend a hand to someone who may be feeling overwhelmed, encourage daily acts of kindness.
We all go through difficult times; it’s part of the human experience. But by nurturing self-compassion—and extending that same compassion to others— we can become more emotionally resilient and experience greater contentment in our lives.