Had a bad day and going home to a pint of chocolate ice cream? Is that an act self-pity or self-compassion? And does it make a difference? When we feel self-pity, we are consumed with our problems. We retreat inside our heads re-playing a situation that went wrong over and over and go down that negative spiral of self-pity or self-indulgence. Or we might take the path of “tough love” and “beat ourselves up” for making mistakes or falling short of our expectations to punish ourselves for not being perfect.
Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows us to see our personal experiences as a piece of the universal experience. In other words, we all have bad days… everybody does. Being self-compassionate means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long run. Succumbing to short term gratification that is harmful to our overall well-being, such as drinking to excess or over-eating, is not self-compassion. Self-compassion is doing what is necessary to ensure our long-term health and happiness, even if it involves the sort of short-term discomforts like giving up tobacco, going on a diet, or starting a new exercise program.
In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluation. That is, “I only love myself when I think I deserve it”. Self-compassion is an acceptance of humanness. And we deserve self-compassion and understanding as much or more than anyone else. We don’t have to judge ourselves as better, or more accomplished, than others to feel good. We can acknowledge our personal failings with kindness. When we accept that imperfections do not need to be hidden, it is easier to know ourselves and to make realistic positive choices.
Self- compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with your shortcomings. It means giving up constant self-judgment and self-criticism. Being self-compassionate means making changes that allow you to be healthier and happier because you care about yourself. Having compassion for yourself means that you respect and accept that you are human. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will make mistakes, and you will fail. You won’t always live up your hopes and expectations.
You share this experience with every other human being on the earth. The more you open your heart to this reality, the more you will experience compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans.
And that occasional indulgence of chocolate ice cream may not be that harmful, but why not change that act from self-pity to self-compassion? Invite friends or family to spend an evening with you enjoying that ice cream and take turns telling each other what you appreciate about each other. Instant self-compassion served with chocolate ice cream on top!
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