Self-Compassion: A guide to being kinder to self

Written By

Helen Kaminski, MSc

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As humans, we all have expectations of ourselves. However, sometimes these expectations can become overwhelming and unrealistic, leading to stress, anxiety, and a sense of failure.

It’s essential to learn how to stop expecting too much from yourself to maintain your mental and physical well-being, while being mindful of self-compassion.

In this article, we’ll explore some ways to overcome the burden of high expectations and be kinder to ourselves.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is treating oneself with the same kindness, concern, and understanding that one would offer to a good friend. This concept may sound simple, but it can be challenging to implement, especially for those who struggle with self-criticism or negative self-talk.

Research has shown that self-compassion can have a powerful impact on mental health and well-being. By cultivating self-compassion, individuals may experience reduced stress and anxiety, increased resilience, and a greater sense of self-worth.

Moreover, self-compassion can help individuals break free from self-judgment and shame and foster a sense of inner peace and acceptance.

Individuals can practice mindfulness, kindness, and shared humanity to cultivate self-compassion. This means being present with one’s emotions, offering oneself gentle and supportive language, and recognizing that everyone experiences suffering and struggle at some point in their lives.

By treating themselves with self-compassion, individuals can cultivate a more profound sense of self-love and inner strength and, ultimately, live a more fulfilling and joyful life.

A growing body of research supports the benefits of self-compassion, including studies conducted by Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading expert on self-compassion. Dr. Neff’s research has found that self-compassion is associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress and increased levels of well-being and resilience.

Additionally, her research has shown that individuals who practice self-compassion are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors and are less likely to engage in harmful behaviors, such as substance abuse or self-harm.

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Dangers of high expectations

Expecting too much from oneself can negatively impact our mental and physical health. For instance, it can lead to:

Stress and Anxiety

Setting too many goals for oneself can overwhelm and lead to chronic stress and anxiety. It can lead to a constant state of worry about meeting those goals, causing restlessness, insomnia, and other stress-related health issues.

Fear of Failure

When we set unachievable goals, we are setting ourselves up for failure. When we don’t meet those goals, it can lead to feelings of disappointment, inadequacy, and low self-esteem.

Burnout

Expecting too much from ourselves can also lead to burnout. It can make us feel like we need to work harder and longer hours to meet our goals, leading to exhaustion, fatigue, and even physical illnesses.

Daily self-compassion exercises

Now that we understand the negative impacts of high expectations let’s discuss ways to overcome them:

Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is the first step in reducing your expectations of yourself. Determine what you can achieve within a particular timeframe and work towards that goal. Break it down into smaller, achievable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Learn to Say No

Sometimes, we take on too much because we feel like we have to. Learn to say no when your plate is full. It’s okay to prioritize your well-being and take on only what you can handle.

Celebrate Small Wins

It’s important to celebrate small wins along the way. Acknowledge your progress and accomplishments, no matter how small they are. It will help you stay motivated and feel good about yourself.

Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is the act of being kind and understanding towards yourself, even when things don’t go as planned. It means treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support you would show to a good friend. It’s crucial to be gentle with yourself and not beat yourself up when you don’t meet your expectations.

Take Breaks

Taking breaks is crucial for your well-being. It’s essential to step back, take a break, and recharge your batteries. It will help you gain perspective and reduce stress levels.

Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome

Focusing on the process and not just the outcome can help you stay motivated and keep your expectations in check. Celebrate the small wins and progress you make along the way rather than just focusing on the outcome.

Be Mindful

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the moment. It helps reduce stress and anxiety and promotes overall well-being. Taking a few minutes every day to practice mindfulness can help you be more present, reduce stress levels, and gain perspective.

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Art of self-compassion

When we prioritize self-love, we create space for personal growth, healing, and resilience.

Living a life of self-love and being kind to oneself can be transformative. It means treating ourselves with the same kindness and care we offer others.

It means recognizing our strengths and our vulnerabilities and giving ourselves permission to make mistakes and learn from them. It means setting boundaries and saying no when necessary, and prioritizing our own well-being.

Practicing self-love and self-compassion can also have a positive impact on our relationships with others. When we are kind to ourselves, we are more likely to extend that kindness to those around us.

We become more patient, understanding, and empathetic, and we are better equipped to navigate the challenges that come with relationships.

Living a life of self-love and being kind to oneself is not always easy. It takes practice and commitment to cultivate self-love and self-compassion. But the rewards are worth it.

By prioritizing self-love, we create a foundation of inner strength and resilience that can help us navigate the ups and downs of life with grace and dignity.

Looking for more mental health tips? Make sure to follow our Mental Health Board on Pinterest!

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About the author

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Mindful living for a happier, healthier you. I’m a writer and mental health advocate in Warsaw, Poland, with five years working as a therapist. I hold a psychology degree from the University of Warsaw. I specialize in writing about mental health, using my experiences and academic background to educate and inspire others. In my free time, I volunteer at a Disability Learning Center and go for nature walks. My writing aims to break down mental health stigma and help others feel understood. Social

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