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.
At times, everyone gives in to negative self-talk.
You might feel guilty if you let down a friend, and for the next few days, you dwell on it over and over again. Or perhaps you tend to wallow in negative thoughts after making a mistake at work. Your self-talk could be anything from “that was so stupid of me” or “I’m such an idiot” to “I mess everything up” and “I don’t deserve real happiness.”
Sometimes, it can feel like these thoughts just come out of nowhere. Nothing necessarily prompts it, but negative self-talk can actually become a habit. And if you get stuck in these thought patterns for long enough, it can have a serious impact on your mental health.
Here’s how to transform your mindset, improve your self-esteem, and finally move beyond negative self-talk.
1. Reframe the Situation
Let’s be honest—positive platitudes are not necessarily the best way to squash negative self-talk. But thinking about a particular situation from a different perspective can make a world of difference.
When something goes wrong, you might have a tendency to focus on all of the ways you messed up. Sometimes, taking a deep breath and looking at the issue from a new point of view can help. Can the problem be solved, even if it will take a while? If the answer is yes, you probably don’t have much to worry about.
2. Learn from Mistakes
Yes, there are moments when you’ll have to admit that you were wrong about something. You may catch yourself thinking, “I can’t do anything right.” But that doesn’t mean you can never forgive yourself.
If you screwed up, can you step back and see if the situation is actually a learning opportunity? Most of the time, the answer is “yes.” Figuring out how you can learn from your past mistakes can help quell those negative thoughts. Showing some compassion to and for yourself will go a long way to combat self-criticism and self-contempt for past mistakes.
3. Avoid Comparisons
It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people. Maybe you worry that one of your coworkers will outshine you. Or perhaps you feel ashamed because your friends are in relationships while you’re single.
But the truth is that you never know what’s going on behind the scenes in someone else’s life. And you never know what good news could be right around the corner for you. That’s why comparing yourself to other people is always a dead end.
If you catch yourself getting stuck on these comparisons, take a second to pause and try to focus on something else more helpful and productive, which will keep you moving forward on your own path.
4. Look for Evidence
When you start to believe your negative self-talk, it can be hard to break out of that mindset. How can you prove to yourself that some of your beliefs are false? Start by looking for concrete evidence.
For example, you might be wondering if one of your friends is upset with you. And you may feel totally convinced that you’ve done something wrong. But if you want the truth, the simplest thing to do is ask them if anything is wrong.
If you have proof that contradicts those negative beliefs, it can help you kick those thoughts to the curb.
5. Focus on Breathing
Every once in a while, you just need a tactic that will help you switch your train of thought. Sometimes, briefly shifting your attention to something else can do the trick.
When you notice that you’re getting stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts, one of the easiest things you can do is make a habit of focusing on your breathing. By concentrating on your breath for just a few moments, you might get the momentary distraction that you need and allow the negative thoughts to pass.
Do you struggle with negative self-talk? Have you tried to change your thought patterns, only to find yourself dwelling on self-criticism again? A qualified therapist can help you get to the root of the issue. If you are concerned that your negative self-talk is a sign of depression, click here to read more. Or feel free to contact me for more information regarding depression treatment.