Want Greater Well-Being and Life Satisfaction?

Take these necessary steps toward self-compassion right now.

Key points

  • Self-compassion has been empirically validated to increase general well-being and life satisfaction.
  • We’re not directly taught how to acknowledge, appreciate, and accept ourselves and inevitably seek external sources for self-validation.
  • Through intentionally practicing self-compassion, we can learn to increase our self-awareness and cultivate greater gratitude toward ourselves.
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We’re quick to identify our “flaws” and all that is “wrong” with us. It becomes confusing when we’re taught to not be too boastful or full of ourselves. We’re also not directly taught how to acknowledge, appreciate, and accept ourselves. It’s uncanny; if you search up love songs, you’ll find songs representing our love toward others. What about love songs directed toward loving ourselves? We’re just not conditioned to understand its importance.

Changing the Focus From External to Internal Validation

We all share the need to be attuned to, connected to, validated, and comforted. We have taken on the idea that it should or must come from others and be facilitated by certain people in a specific way. We become attached to fixed ideas about how we are to receive support and encouragement. Because we’re so focused externally, we often lose sight of our ability to self-soothe, strengthen, and empower ourselves.

You are the only one who deeply knows and gets you. You’re with yourself 24/7. You feel, experience, and venture out together for all the days of your life. You will never leave you. You are consistent, reliable, and accessible to yourself. Who is better equipped to provide nurturance to you than you? You can learn and work toward being your biggest fan and greatest asset.

Everyone deserves validation and nurturing, but we can’t always leave that responsibility to others. Our thoughts, feelings, and needs can be fleeting and variable. As much as we want others to be accessible when we need support, no one can be reliable all the time.

Intentionally Noticing Your Wholeness

There is a critical need to notice what’s wonderful and wholesome about yourself. Pay attention and notice it all. Throughout your day, you perform acts of kindness (e.g., opening the door for someone, calling a sick friend), and you expect it from yourself. Every single moment you lean into, your best self is pertinent, noteworthy, and helps you get better at accepting and appreciating who you are.

Undertaking such a heartfelt exploration and expression of self-love inevitably generates increased self-compassion, which has been empirically validated to increase general well-being and life satisfaction. We approach ourselves and take action based on the fundamental belief that we deserve to be noticed, attended to, and supported. We can notice our self-judgments and condemnations, and work to become softer, more thoughtful, and substantially kinder to ourselves.

WEROC: 5 Steps to Practicing Self-Compassion

WEROC are the steps you can take toward building and practicing compassion. These will help you enhance your compassion toward yourself. What we practice gets stronger. What we commit to, we achieve, and we believe.

If you increase your self-awareness, and proactively and consistently engage in compassion-laden behaviors, your actions inevitably become more a part of who you are and how you are. Take time to practice these steps so you can reap the incredible benefits compassion offers you.

  1. Work with (not against) your self-critic. Think of a constructive action and then plan for it. Do things differently; otherwise, you’ll have similar results. If your inner critic starts to tell you that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, thank your mind for trying to protect you and ensure your comfortability. Acknowledge you are not your thoughts or feelings, and that you can choose to take action based on your core values and what’s truly meaningful to you. Know that you have a fundamental right to live a purposeful and meaningful life.
  2. Engage your friend voice. If you find yourself being overly self-critical, listen carefully to what your self-critic is saying. Ask yourself if you would say half those things to a good friend going through a similar situation. Or even to someone you don’t like. What would you actually say? Engage your “friend” voice and act on behalf of that kindness and care. Say the things you most need to hear to be validated, comforted, and nurtured. Watch the brief video “How to Be a Friend to Yourself” by The School of Life to help you with this.
  3. Redirect. Redirect your inner critic’s focus to specific situations and behavior, rather than broad labels or personal attributes. Rather than labeling who you are as a person, call yourself on the behavior. Reframe expressing and identifying what value it’s rubbing against (e.g., work ethic vs. pleasure-seeking). Consider whether the response helps you lean toward or away from your values and being your best self.
  4. Observe and acknowledge. Notice your feelings and emotions in different circumstances throughout the day. Next time your self-critic pipes up, recognize that your mind may have good but misguided intentions. Recognize that your mind will attempt to ensure that you’re safe and comfortable. To do this, it may be overprotective or convince you to do whatever’s necessary to achieve or maintain comfortability. Name it and acknowledge it, rather than try to suppress it.
  5. Comfort. Identify your emotions and where in your body you are feeling them. Tightness in your chest? Heaviness in your shoulders? Remind yourself that flaws and imperfections are integral to our humanness and the essence of our shared humanity. Our body reacts to our distress and alerts us when we need to make a shift. Assess your propensity to do what is most familiar and comfortable. Just notice it. Make concerted efforts to reserve self-judgment and self-criticism.

Make It a Daily Practice-You’re Well Worth Your Time

Try saying “I love myself,” or “I am worthy of love,” aloud. How does it feel to express that? Most people report feeling awkward and having difficulty with connecting at the gut level. It says something about the way our mind works naturally, how we were socialized, the way in which we personally view ourselves, and how we may not have ever been taught to express appreciation and self-love.

Make it a daily practice to ask yourself continually what you need to feel validated and supported during moments of pain or challenge. Follow through on giving yourself the attention, words of encouragement, touch, or whatever else you may need. You deserve your love and attention.

Please listen to Meeting Shame With Self-Compassion Talk and Guided Meditation led by me. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for more interviews and guided meditations.

Originally published at https://www.psychologytoday.com.

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Dr. Michelle Maidenberg

Michelle P. Maidenberg, Ph.D., MPH, LCSW-R works with children age 8 and above, adolescents, teens, and adults. Michelle is the Co-Founder of “Thru My Eyes”