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Embracing Self-Compassion: A Path to Healing Trauma, Depression and Anxiety

Ever felt like you're your own worst critic? Like no matter what you do, you find a way to beat yourself up and say mean things?

Self-compassion is all about changing the way we interact with ourselves. It's about treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you'd offer a friend in need when life throws curveballs your way.

While it’s easy to dismiss the idea of self-compassion, the research says we all need it!

Studies have shown that self-compassion helps people become aware of their difficult thoughts and emotions without getting caught in them, feels a sense of comfort and acceptance around difficult emotions and bring kindness and understanding to emotional experiences, all of which leads to a reduction in depression, anxiety and trauma.


man with hand on his face, looking to be in distress

The Three Pillars of Self-Compassion

We’ve all heard of self-compassion, but what is it really? Dr. Kristin Neff, break self-compassion down in to 3 main elements:


1. Being Kind to Yourself: Instead of beating yourself up over mistakes or feeling inadequate, self-compassion is about giving yourself a break. It's understanding that nobody's perfect, and it's okay to cut yourself some slack.


2. Realizing We're All in This Together: Ever felt like you're the only one struggling? Self-compassion reminds us that we're all in the same boat. We all face challenges and setbacks—it's just part of being human.


3. Staying Grounded in the Present: Self-compassion means not getting swept away by negative thoughts or emotions. It's about finding a balance approach to your emotions, neither invalidating them or over-identifying with them. It’s about knowing that your thoughts and feelings do not define you.


What Self-Compassion Isn't

In our therapy offices, we often hear people saying that they don’t want to try self-compassion because they have a misconception about what self-compassion is.

Self-compassion isn't about feeling sorry for yourself or letting yourself off the hook. It's not about ignoring your problems, but about facing them head-on with kindness and care.

When people practice self-compassion, they are actually more likely to reach their goals than when they come at their struggles from a place of judgement and criticism.


same man as pictured before, now talking to a therapist, looking much more relaxed


Try This Practice Exercise


Next time you catch yourself being hard on yourself, try this:


1.Identify the thoughts you are having that are self-critical. Try writing these down.

A few common ones may include “I’m not doing well enough” or “I’m a loser”.Try to notice if there are any phrases that you tell yourself over and over when you are being self-critical. Where did this phrase come from? Did someone teach you to feel this way about yourself?


2. Take a moment to imagine how you would talk to a friend or loved one who is feeling this way. See if you can ground yourself in that self-compassion. Feel the warmth, caring and urge to help that you have for your loved one and see if you can direct this warmth towards yourself. 


3. Make an effort to speak to your self-critical side from a place of compassion. Send love towards the part of yourself that is being critical. Ask if your self-compassion can take over and say a few words.


4. Try re-writing the thoughts you wrote in step 2 from a place of compassion.If it helps, try writing it to your friend or loved one first, then switch it to the first person (“You are going through a lot right now” would become “I am going through a lot right now”).


Here are a few examples to help you out:

Self-Criticism

Self-Compassion

I’m so disgusting for laying on the couch all day

I had a hard day at work, which is why I need so much rest right now. Once I rest a bit, I’ll see if something else, like calling a friend, would also help me feel good.

I’m such an idiot!! I only got 70% on this test and everyone else did way better than that.

I’m struggling to understand that concepts on this test, and that’s okay, this is a hard subject. Maybe I should reach out to the professor to see if they can offer me additional help.

Nobody like me. I’m a loser.

I feel really alone and rejected right now. Just because I feel this way though, doesn’t mean I’m a loser.


Notice that in the self-compassionate statements above, you're more liekly to do more than when you speak to yourself from criticism. Many people fear that self-compassion means they get away with everything. This is not the case! It just means that when we make mistakes (which we will do!!) we move through them with grace, rather than trying to change ourselves through criticism.


Want support on your self-compassion journey? Reach out to our team today and start living with compassion and grace.


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