Self-compassion: Treat Yourself Like a Best Friend

When you are going through rough times are you flagellating yourself with self-criticism?

Self-compassion requires treating yourself the way you would treat your best friend.

Self-compassion is an antidote for self-criticism. Kristin Neff  psychologist and a pioneer researcher on this subject has  identified three elements of self-compassion:  self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. According to her research,  self-compassion is on the opposite spectrum of  self-criticism. Self-compassion allows and inspires us to learn from failures and to try again. Self-criticism on the other hand, might lead to giving up or denying our failures. Who wants to be invalidated  by the voice in their own head? Yet, people are doing it all the time.

Most of us feel compassion when a close friend is struggling. What would it be like to receive the same caring attention from yourself when we needed it most? All that’s required is a shift in attention—recognizing that as a human being, we too, are worthy of compassion.

People who are more self-compassionate have less anxiety and stress.Self-compassion involves the capacity to comfort and soothe ourselves, and to motivate ourselves with encouragement, when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Self-compassion is learned in part by connecting with our innate compassion for others.


Treat yourself like a best friend

our friendship is magicHow would you treat a best friend? First, think about times when a close friend felt really bad about him or herself or was he  really struggling in some way. How did you respond to your friend in this situation?  Write down what would  you typically do, what  would you say, and note the tone in which you  would typically talk to your friends.

Now think about times when you felt  bad about yourself or you were  struggling. How did  you typically respond to yourself in these situations?  Write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you talk to yourself.Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?Please write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you would typically respond to a close friend who is suffering.

Once you understand how you would treat your best friend, you are ready to apply the same behavior towards yourself.

Journal Your Way into Self-Compassion

What makes you feel inadequate? What is your internal monolog telling you that is wrong about you ? What are you telling to yourself during the hard times of not trusting yourself? Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions is a mindful act. According to Kristin Neff, the first step in journaling your way into self-compassion is to start with flashing out the thoughts you have about yourself that make you feel ashamed, insecure and unworthy. Writing out about the things you do not like about yourself will help you isolate all the negative emotions around different aspects of inadequacy. Neff recommends that you allow yourself to feel your emotions as they are and then write about them openly and freely.

self-compassion As the second step in Neff’s approach to self-compassion,  you are asked to write a letter to yourself as you were writing to a friend to whom you are  unconditionally loving, accepting, kind and compassionate.  Reflect upon what this friend feels towards you, and how you are loved and accepted exactly as you are, with all  human imperfections.

The purpose of this step is to address yourself from a stand point of human imperfection, kindness and forgiveness. If you could accept your friend and offer your unconditional love and forgiveness, why wouldn’t you be equally kind to yourself?

Write a letter to yourself  focusing on the perceived inadequacy you tend to judge yourself for. What would this friend say to you about your “flaw” from the standpoint of unlimited compassion? How would this friend convey the deep compassion he/she feels for you, especially for the pain you feel when you judge yourself so harshly? What would you write to your best to remind him/her  that all people have both strengths and weaknesses? And if you think this friend would suggest possible changes you should make, how would these suggestions embody feelings of unconditional understanding and compassion?  Try to infuse your letter with a strong sense of acceptance, kindness, caring, and desire for your health and happiness.

Let self-compassion  sooth and comfort you

self compassion
Copyright: arloo

After writing the letter, Neff recommends to put it down for a while. When you are ready, come back to re-read the letter allowing for each word to flow into your heart. Let the self-compassion sooth and comfort you.  Your job is not to seek love, but to open yourself to it. Love, connection and acceptance are your birthright. To claim them, all you have to do is to lighten up the shadow that is burdening your heart.

When you are going through rough times, do you give yourself caring you need or you are ignoring your pain and flagellating yourself with self-criticism?  Share your thoughts and experiences  with us! 

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About the author

Ksenija Pavlovic

Ksenija Pavlovic

Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent.

Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department at Yale University, Lead Instructor in International Affairs and Security and Politics Law and Economics programs at Yale Global Scholars, Head Writing Fellow at the Yale Graduate Writing Center, Fellow of the “Research and Travel Award in Grand Strategy” from International Security Studies (ISS) at Yale University, Fellow of the Roger Hertog Global Strategy Initiative in Religious Violence at Columbia University, a Doctoral candidate in Political Conflict and Peace Building Processes at Complutense University in Madrid, Fellow of the OSI Global Supplementary Grant Program, and a Visiting Doctoral Fellow at the Juan March Institute. She holds an M.Sc. in European Politics from the London School of Economics, an M.A. in American Politics, and a B.A. in Journalism and Communication from the University of Belgrade. She speaks English, Serbian, Croatian, and Spanish.

Pavlovic has interviewed exclusively pivotal figures including Arianna Huffington, Sir Richard Branson, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, Karlie Kloss, filmmaker and founder of the Webby awards Tiffany Shlain, film director Lars von Trier, actors Adam Brody, Monica Bellucci, fashion designers Adolfo Dominguez, Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan, publisher and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes; the world No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic; novelist Martin Amis, as well as big names in the governmental arena such as the former President of Serbia Boris Tadic, the leading members of the first democratic Serbian government and Milorad Dodik, President of the Serbian entity of BIH. Moreover, Ms. Pavlovic has exclusively covered the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, London Film Festival, Madrid Fashion Week, The Madrid Open, and a range of other international benefit and political events.


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