By Jean-Christian Gagnon, PSP Health Promotion Ottawa –
How satisfied are you with who you are today?
Given the competitive and hierarchical culture of the society we live in, the vast majority of us feel the need to distinguish ourselves from others to improve our self-esteem. This desire to feel superior is quite understandable, but it’s problematic. Although you can excel in many areas (work, family, sports activities, etc.), it’s impossible to be the best at everything. This tendency to inflate the ego and compare oneself to others is often an unconscious mechanism of the mind to see oneself in a better light. Unfortunately, those mechanisms are at the root of many problems and limit us as we strive to achieve our full potential.
What is the key to a better relationship with yourself?
One of the scientific trends in the field of positive psychology that has received much attention in recent decades is that of self-compassion, a concept developed by researcher Kristin Neff of the University of Texas. Self-compassion is defined as a way of relating to oneself and involves three main components. The first, self-kindness, means treating yourself in the same way as you would a close friend (i.e., with kindness and understanding) rather than falling into judgment and self-criticism. The second, common humanity, involves recognizing that you are not alone in your difficulties instead of alienating and isolating yourself. Finally, the third, mindfulness, means being aware of your thoughts and emotions (rather than repressing them) but, at the same time, not over-identifying with them.
And no (for the sceptics), self-compassion is not reserved for people who are weak, lazy or narcissistic, nor is it selfish. On the contrary, research shows that people who are compassionate towards themselves:
- Are more resilient and adaptable;
- Are more motivated;
- Have a better and more stable sense of personal worth;
- Have a higher sense of well-being and subjective happiness;
- Are less anxious, depressed and stressed;
- More frequently practice healthy behaviours (e.g., fruit and vegetable intake, regular physical activity, stress management techniques, adequate sleep);
- And more.
In short, self-compassion is an unconditional and non-egotistical acceptance of self, unlike self‑esteem, which is built through assessments or judgments about oneself.
A few exercises to cultivate self-compassion
Below is a list of simple and accessible practical exercises that you can repeat to foster a sense of self-compassion. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” The ball is in your court––happy training!
Exercise 1: How would you treat a friend?
Exercise 2: Self-compassion break
Exercise 3: Exploring self-compassion through writing
Exercise 4: Supportive touch
Exercise 5: Changing your critical self-talk
Exercise 6: Self-compassion journal
Exercise 7: Identifying what we really want
Exercise 8: Taking care of the caregiver
Exercise 9: Guided self-compassion meditations (5–24 minutes)
For more information, go to http://self-compassion.com/
– Your Health Promotion Team
Photo from stock imagery
This post is also available in: Français (French)