Self-compassion, as opposed to self-esteem, is surprisingly a more effective method to foster a better perception of ourselves.

As humans, we are often reminded that it’s important to have self esteem and a strong sense of our own accomplishments. That, is, of course, true. But it’s also so important to treat ourselves with care and consideration, and not be so hard on ourselves. That is where self compassion comes in.

Self compassion is an important part of learning to anchor our sense of self.

“Self-esteem relies on seeing ourselves positively, liking ourselves, or propping ourselves up. When things are going well, self-esteem can help us feel good for a period of time,” said Dr. Naomi Ben-Ami, Psy.D., licensed psychologist for Williamsburg Therapy Group.

However, it’s important to realize that at the end of the day, we are all just human. Human beings are flawed. We are all complicated beings, with strengths and weaknesses.

As humans, we are all fallible and undoubtedly will come across parts of ourselves that are flawed or problematic.

Dr. Naomi Ben-Ami

Self compassion is a way of relating to ourselves that eliminates judgement about this inevitability. And that’s necessary for our own survival and wellbeing.

“This means that our sense of worth is not reliant on being ‘good,’ performing well, or thinking positively (all of which are fleeting experiences),” said Dr. Ben-Ami. 

Instead, self compassion helps us be kind and understanding ourselves no matter what is there.

How self-compassion can change us for the better

Self-compassion does not mean that we have to live in denial about what is going on or give up on trying to change by adopting complacency. We don’t have to overlook parts of ourselves that need growth. Instead, it is a constructive way of evolving.

It involves seeing ourselves with understanding and kindness, and from that place making decisions on how to take action.

Dr. Naomi Ben-Ami

When you find yourself feeling low, it can be very effective to think about what you would think and say to a friend if they were struggling with the same thing you are experiencing. “This exercise can help you switch your lens and see yourself from a gentler and more compassionate view,” said Dr. Ben-Ami.  

Another effective tool is to create a mantra-like statement that you can repeat in difficult moments. This is meant to remind yourself of some of the basic tenets of self compassion. “May I be kind to myself,” “We all struggle at times, I am not different,” “May I learn to accept myself,” “I am so very human,” are all examples that clients of mine have used and found helpful.

The difference between doing and being

“I see the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion to mirror the difference between doing and being,” said Coltrane Lord, intimacy and relationship expert and author of Love Avatar.  

When we have self-esteem, we are celebrating what we have accomplished in life; our goals, our abilities, and our accomplishments. “These are all experiences that must be ongoing to keep our self-esteem alive,” said Lord.

If you only focus on celebrating the doing qualities, you will feel like you’ve failed if you don’t accomplish what you’ve set out to accomplish.

Coltrane Lord

On the other hand, self-compassion is a quality of being. “When we have self-compassion, we are practicing radical self-love, radical self-acceptance, mindful awareness, presence, and understanding that each of us is interconnected with each other,” said Lord.

It’s about empowering ourselves, and feeling good about ourselves instead of just expecting better. Self-compassion is an active process. It forces us to practice self-love rather than leaving it to external factors that we hope would reinforce it.

“Self-compassion is the truest essence of confidence, which activates self-empowerment and the empowerment of those around you, which is a much more lasting quality. If you fail at something, it will not affect how you see yourself, it only enhances your character that much more,” said Lord.

Self-compassion also lasts longer!

“Self compassion is deeper and more sustainable than self esteem. Self-esteem can be built up and broken down,” said Janine Francolini, founder of the Flawless Foundation a mental health awareness organization.

“Self compassion lasts because it is the allowance to be human and acceptable to be perfectly imperfect,” said Francolini. It is a practice that can be cultivated by developing skills like positive self talk and self forgiveness.

It is a concerted effort to stop the negative voices in your head. Self esteem can grow more sustainable as you develop self compassion.

Janine Francolini

How to implement self-compassion in your daily life

“At the Flawless Foundation, our guiding philosophy is seeing the perfection in everyone which starts with seeing the perfection in ourselves,” said Francolini. One way to develop these skills is to look in the mirror and say something nurturing to yourself like, “I love you, You look great.” 

Before a daunting task, whisper to yourself, “You Got This”  or “I got you.” Talk to yourself as you would your best friend or loved one. 

When you make a mistake, say “It’s ok – we are all human.”Extra credit for using a term of endearment – It’s ok honey.” 

“When someone gives you a compliment take a moment to take it in and say ‘Thank you’ instead of negating or deflecting,” said Francolini,

Not only does self-compassion grow with practice but the bonus is that as you develop this skill, your compassion for others will naturally grow as well.

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