3 Steps to Self-Compassion when Healing from Grief and Trauma
Updated: Mar 1
“God, you can be so stupid sometimes.” “Why would he be attracted to YOU?” “You’re just going to screw this up.”
These are things you would probably never say to another human being unless you’re a real jerk. But how many of us have that inner critic that says these kinds of things all the time?
If you're like most people, you probably have an inner critic that sometimes tells you things you'd never dream of saying to someone else. Whether it's calling yourself stupid, wondering why anyone would be attracted to you, or predicting that you'll screw something up, these kinds of negative self-talk can be incredibly damaging to your self-esteem and overall well-being.
Most of us treat ourselves far more harshly than we would anyone else. And that’s a shame. In my experience, so much of the depression and anxiety my clients feel stems from a dysfunctional relationship they have with themselves. But every day is a chance for you to develop a loving relationship with yourself. And the best way to do that is to practice self-compassion.
If that concept seems foreign to you or you are even uncomfortable with the idea of showing yourself compassion, then please keep reading to learn some simple but profound ways you can begin to practice self-compassion as a way to connect lovingly with yourself.
The good news is that with a little bit of effort, you can learn to practice self-compassion and develop a more loving relationship with yourself. Here are three steps to get started:
1. Become More Mindful of Your Feelings
Self-compassion is the pathway to emotional healing after a death or trauma. But to begin, you must become more aware of your own emotions, especially as they relate to you. The first step in practicing self-compassion is to become more aware of your own emotions. Pay attention to how you're feeling, especially in moments when you're struggling emotionally. When your inner critic starts to speak up, try to offer yourself kindness instead. Remind yourself that it's okay to feel the way you're feeling and that you're doing the best you can.
For example, if you're feeling disappointed in yourself for not doing well on a project at work, you might say something like, "I know you're disappointed, but you did your best with the information you had at the time. And that's something to be proud of."
Try to be more aware of when you are emotionally struggling with something. Perhaps you are feeling confused, desperate, or inadequate. Ordinarily, in these moments your inner critic may strike. But now, try and offer yourself kindness instead.
2. Monitor Your Language
Until you become used to being compassionate toward yourself, you’ll want to monitor the language you use. You are most likely so used to criticizing yourself that it will be far too easy for the wrong choice of words to come out. That’s okay. In these moments you certainly don’t want to scold yourself. Just be aware and make a compassionate correction. It's easy to fall into old habits of self-criticism, but every time you catch yourself doing it, try to make a compassionate correction. Talk to yourself as you would a friend or a small child, using kind and gentle words.
For example, if you catch yourself saying, "I'm so stupid," you might correct yourself by saying, "I'm not stupid. I made a mistake, but that doesn't make me a bad person."
3. Get Physical
Finally, one of the most effective ways to practice self-compassion is to get physical. Use kind physical gestures with yourself, such as gently stroking your cheeks and temples when you're stressed, holding your hand over your heart when you're sad, or holding your own hand when you feel lonely. These physical gestures can help you show yourself love and kindness in those moments when you need them most. Any physical gesture, so long as it’s loving, will help you show yourself true love and kindness in those moments.
It's important to remember that showing yourself compassion may not come easily at first, especially if you have low self-esteem. If you're struggling to be kind to yourself, it may be a good idea to talk to a therapist who can help you uncover the root of these feelings and develop strategies for changing your thoughts and behavior.
Self-compassion is an essential component of emotional healing and overall well-being. By becoming more mindful of your feelings, monitoring your language, and getting physical, you can start to develop a more loving relationship with yourself.
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