Self-compassion is a skill. 

We’re often told we need to “be compassionate” toward ourselves. I say variants of this on my social media pages almost every day. 

But what does self-compassion actually look like? 

How do we put it into action? 

For the concept of “self compassion” to be meaningful or helpful, we need to have practical ways to put it into action. 

Which is rough, because many of us were very much NOT taught how to be compassionate toward ourselves. 

We didn’t see it modeled. We weren’t told it was a skill, let alone an important skill to learn. 

For that matter, many of us were taught that there was some sort of virtue to being hard on ourselves. 

I’ve even seen where people are encouraged to be “harder on themselves than anyone else will be.” 

The idea, supposedly, is that if they hold themselves to a “higher standard” than anyone else would expect of them, then they will easily exceed the standards that other people in the real world WILL expect of them. 

I have some questions about this logic— I’m not at all confident it actually works that way— but I’m always curious about why holding ourselves to a “higher standard” often equates to being ruthless toward ourselves. 

Holding yourself to a high standard doesn’t have anything to do with being mean to yourself. 

It doesn’t have anything to do with insulting yourself. 

It doesn’t have anything to do with degrading yourself. 

The idea of holding ourselves to a “higher standard” gets entwined with the notion of “tough love”— which itself is a notion that often gets defined as “behavior that may not feel loving, but is intended for our growth.” 

I agree, there are some behaviors that we may not experience or “feel” as loving, but which can help us grow. 

But it also seems to be the case that many times when people pride themselves on showing “tough love,” they’re mostly looking for an excuse to be “tough,” end of sentence. 

So what does self-compassion look like? 

Self-compassion is paying attention to our own needs and reactions with respect, not disdain. 

Self-compassion is prioritizing getting our needs met for things like nourishment and rest— without giving ourselves a hard time for needing those things, let alone needing as much of them as we do. 

Self-compassion is really all about attention and attitude. 

We need to pay attention to ourselves with a loving, tolerant attitude. 

And we have to do it EVEN IF we are frustrated with ourselves. 

We have to do it EVEN IF depression or trauma has convinced us in the moment that we are somehow terrible or inferior. 

We have to do it EVEN IF we were never taught or shown how to do it. 

We have to do it EVEN IF everything around us is falling apart and everyone around us is turning on us. 

Our self-compassion cannot be contingent upon us “feeling” like it or other people approving of us. 

We are deserving of self-compassion and we need self-compassion no matter the circumstance. 

Self-compassion is not a goal to aspire to. 

It is an important life skill to use every day. 

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