Most of us struggle to practice self-compassion. We don’t want to go too easy on ourselves. And so, we assume that the only way to make progress is by berating ourselves for our mistakes until we can correct them.
However, this mindset can be quite destructive. After all, this is not how we would treat a loved one in crisis mode. Yet, when it is us who is facing a critical situation, we often treat ourselves with a lack of self-compassion.
Self-compassion means being gentle with ourselves, especially when we’ve done something wrong. Neglecting being compassionate with ourselves can send us into a downward spiral. It can even contribute to depression.
Here’s why self-compassion and forgiveness are so important, and why ignoring these practices can damage your mental health.
The Roots of Depression
Yes, clinical depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. But there are other factors that can contribute to depression too. For example, neglecting to eat a healthy diet or exercise and not getting enough sleep can all be detrimental to your mental health.
The way you think about yourself can affect your mental health as well. If you tell yourself that you are uniquely flawed and not good enough, it’s easy to feel like you will never see happier days. And if you feel bogged down by every mistake you make, you might think there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Letting Go of Self-Judgment
We can be our own worst critics. But letting go of guilt is the key to real self-compassion. Self-compassion and self-forgiveness go hand in hand. Many of us spend our days dealing with an “I owe” mentality.
Yes, we owe each other kindness, generosity, patience, and honesty. But we do not owe each other perfection!
You cannot expect that of yourself. Nor can you punish yourself when people expect it from you and you’re unable to deliver. Allowing anger and shame to “lead” your life will not bring you happiness or fulfillment. Forgiving yourself for past mistakes is just as important as receiving forgiveness from others.
When your friend makes a mistake and comes to you for advice, what do you do? Do you tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves? Or do you give them a hug, let them know that you still love them, and assure them that everything will be okay in the end?
This is the way you should accept our own mistakes as well. Being warm and understanding towards yourself is the key to inner peace and self-compassion.
The Big Picture
Many of us over-identify with our failures. Meanwhile, we ignore our successes and don’t give ourselves enough credit for our achievements. Yet, we feel like our mistakes make us who we are. But we can’t look at one or two mistakes or achievements and say that someone is a success or failure. We’re more than that.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a “success” or “failure,” you need to learn to see the big picture. Every human being has their strengths and weaknesses, and self-compassion means recognizing and accepting both can exist at the same time. They make us human.
One thing that will help you be a little kinder to yourself: remembering that you are never alone in your mistakes. It’s a shared experience!
Every single one of us makes the wrong choice sometimes. We all let down the people whom we love. Everyone has done things that they regret.
Sometimes, we allow our failures to isolate us. But the truth is that our mistakes can actually unite us. We can be compassionate towards ourselves, and towards each other, rather than being unforgiving and harsh.
Do you feel like you’ve never quite gotten the hang of self-compassion? Ever wish you could be kinder to yourself? It can be tough to break out of an unforgiving and “not good enough” mindset, but therapy can help.
If you have additional questions or would like to know how I can help you develop more self-compassion, please contact me.