3 Easy habits that build self-compassion
Welcome to another weekly newsletter, lovingly named the “Beyond The Breakup Newsletter.”
It’s the newsletter that provides you with big ideas on how to grow and improve as a person and build better relationships so you can avoid a future breakup.
sign up and join the adventure!
Along with the fancy weekly newsletter, I’m also going to give you access to 4 exercises that will help you stop obsessing over your ex as soon as you sign up.
While I’ve brushed over self-compassion a few times in my articles and wrote a newsletter on a similar topic, self-love, I have never written much about the subject in detail. So let me go ahead and do that here.
Also, a little hint, I will be releasing an entire article on self-compassion next month. It’s something I struggle with a lot, so writing about it would be pretty therapeutic for me. And I assume that you’re also in need of some self-compassion from time to time, so the article might just be up your alley.
Anyhow, onward to the Monday newsletter!
Self-compassion is a surprisingly simple concept to understand. It translates to treating yourself as your best friend despite your struggle, times of doubt, and adversities, such as heartbreak.
As Dr. Neff Kristin said in her book on self-compassion:
“Self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?””
We need self-compassion and the unconditional kindness and comfort it brings to counteract all the harsh habits we developed — the habit of talking down to ourselves, ruminating on our past mistakes, or repeatedly telling ourselves how we suck at life.
If we can’t learn how to manage these bad habits, we’ll only develop (or uncage) the destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation that come with them. Thus, we’ll end up miserable.
I know some people cringe at the word “self-compassion.” In fact, many deem it as the gateway to narcissism or think it’s some self-help hippie nonsense. But beleive me, self-compassion is none of those things.
Self-compassion is a prerequisite of becoming and being a healthy and mentally sane human being. It’s proven that those who are more self-compassionate are also more confident, self-respecting, forgiving (to ourselves and others), and better equipped to cope with challenges like heartbreak.
So how do you actually become more self-compassionate? Well, we can incorporate the concept into our lives in many ways, but below are three that worked for me. Let’s tackle each in turn.
1. Observe your emotions without judgment
We can hardly control our emotions. In fact, I would argue that we can’t control them at all. Yet, we still fuss about them to the point where we end up judging ourselves.
Let me illustrate this for you.
“Oh, stop being angry! God, I have problems!”
“Oh, stop being sad… I’m such a pussy.”
“Why did you let him/her frustrate you so much, geez. I’m so weak.”
What tends to happen after we indulge in those lovely statements is that we become even angrier, sadder, or more frustrated because of our initial anger, sadness, or frustration. This is called getting trapped in our meta emotions. And obviously it can happen with any emotion we’re feeling (even the positive ones), not just anger, sadness or frustration.
We tell ourselves we’re pathetic for getting pissed off in the first place. We tell ourselves we’re weak for getting sad over whatever. Or we tell ourselves we’re stupid for overacting and feeling frustrated over something.
And down and down we go. Moment by moment, we become more judgmental, critical, and harsh to ourselves.
With self-compassion, we can reroute our course in this spiral of self-belittlement and escape it altogether. Here’s one way to start.
Instead of judging yourself, your character, your worthiness as a human being based on what you’re feeling, just label what you’re feeling.
For example, if you feel angry, don’t intellectualize the simple phenomenon. Just describe it as a six-year-old — “I feel angry.”
Use vague language like, “I’m sad, this makes me feel frustrated, or I’m annoyed by this.”
When you get into the habit of labeling and describing your emotions in plain, vague, even childlike language, you’ll find yourself way less judgmental and critical about them, and thus about yourself. This way, you’ll become more compassionate towards yourself in time.
2. shift your negative self-talk to a more realistic variant
We all get into habits of negative self-talk from time to time. It’s the voice in our head that keeps japing and hissing judgmental, harsh, and, as the name implies, negative remarks.
For example, when going through a breakup, we often think, “I made my ex leave me because of my neediness; I’m such a horrible boyfriend/girlfriend.” Or when we’re trying to get our ex back, we often think, why did I text them this? I’ll never get them back now. I’m such a failure.”
With self-compassion, we can work on changing these negative remarks into a more realistic variant.
For instance, you could say to yourself, “Maybe I did make my ex leave me, but that doesn’t make me a horrible boyfriend/girlfriend—just one who has made some mistakes, as many others do.”
Or in the example of getting an ex back we might say, “Hell, I have texted them something inappropriate, but that doesn’t make me a failure, a bad person or totally destroys my chances of ever getting back with them. It was just a mistake on my part. I’ll do better next time. And if not, that’s also fine. My ex was not so special anyways.”
Here’s a bonus tip. I feel generous.
Negative self-talk is irrational, not only absurd. Therefore, when you put this irrationality to the test, the whole pesky thing affects you less. So whenever engaged in it, ask yourself: Okay, what’s going on here? What am I feeling? Am I generalizing anything? How realistic is this way of thinking?
After a few moments of pondering on these and similar questions, you’ll be able to see through the irrationality of negative self-talk more clearly and thus, feel better. Maybe you’ll even begin laughing about the whole thing.
3. Write a letter to yourself
This is probably one of the easiest ways to build self-compassion. It goes like this.
Grab a piece of paper, pretend you’re your own best friend — someone kind, compassionate, nurturing — and write a letter to yourself while pretending you’re embodying this lovely friend of yours. In this letter, write how you think your friend would respond or comment on the traits and aspects of yourself that you hate/dislike the most.
Suppose you’re pissed off and beating yourself up about a recent breakup. (PS: you have more exersizes on this in my Breakup Recovery Manual.) What would a kind and compassionate friend say to you in that case? Write it down.
Suppose you’re failing at getting your ex back and feel like you’re a worthless sack of shit with nothing good to give to the world. What would a best friend tell you about your low self-esteem and self-loathing? Write it down.
Here’s a more general example. Suppose you’re overly critical of yourself because of your looks, money, personal growth, or Instagram followers. What would a best friend tell you about your perennial self-criticism or self-hate? Write it down.
If you’re interested in a deeper dive into this subject, grab the book on self-compassion by Neff Kristin. It’s the book that will serve as the basis for the upcoming self-compassion article.