Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day and my guess is that you’re showing a little extra love to the people you care about.
However, we’re here to let you know that Valentine’s Day shouldn’t just be about showing others love…
Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to treat yourself and your body with some love too! In fact, every day is a great opportunity to show ourselves a little more self-compassion!
What is self-compassion?
We’ve all heard that we need to be kinder to ourselves and show ourselves more “self-compassion”, but what exactly does this mean?
Self-compassion is being “kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings”.1 It means that when you are going through a difficult period, you treat yourself the same way you would treat a close friend: by acknowledging pain, empathizing with it, and showing care and understanding.1
Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher and the first to define the term academically, describes self-compassion as having three elements:2
- Self-kindness, or refraining from harsh criticism of the self.
- Recognizing one’s own humanity, or the fact that all people are imperfect and all people experience pain.
- Mindfulness, or maintaining a non-biased awareness of experiences, even those that are painful, rather than either ignoring or exaggerating their effect.
How is self-compassion different from regular compassion?
Compassion is the ability to feel empathy, love, and concern for others who are struggling, whereas self-compassion is simply the ability to direct these same emotions within oneself and accept oneself, especially in the face of failure.2
Unfortunately, many people who would normally be compassionate struggle to be compassionate toward themselves, often out of a fear of wallowing in self-pity. However, an inability to accept one’s own failures/struggles can make it difficult to achieve emotional well-being.2
In order to have compassion for others, you must first be aware of their pain. You won’t be able to empathize with someone’s situation if you ignore them.3
Second, compassion means being moved by other people’s suffering in such a way that your heart reacts to their suffering (the word compassion literally translates as “suffer with”).3 When this happens, you experience warmth, compassion, and a strong urge to provide some sort of relief for the individual who is in need. When someone fails or makes a mistake, compassion also means treating them with respect and understanding rather than judging them.
Lastly, when you feel compassion for someone else (rather than mere pity), it signifies that you understand that failure, suffering, and imperfection are all a part of what it means to be a human.3
Here are 5 ways you can practice self-compassion on Valentine’s Day and in your everyday life:
- Reframe your thoughts. When a negative thought enters your mind, take a moment to notice it and reframe it into a positive one. For example, if you’re thinking something like, “Ugh, my body looks so gross today.” replace it with, “We all have poor body image days and that’s ok, I don’t have to love my body today but I do have to respect it, so I will continue to nourish myself even though I don’t look my best. I will go for a walk and take a bath later today because that always helps me feel better.”
- Do something you LOVE. Doing things you enjoy improves your mood and gives you more energy. So it’s important to make time for yourself on a regular basis, whether it’s journaling, mediation, painting, listening to music, going for a run, or simply giving yourself an at-home spa treatment!
- Write a letter to yourself. Writing a letter to yourself as if you were writing to a friend is a simple and effective method to develop self-compassion. During difficult times, encouraging words can go a long way. Write about your strengths and weaknesses in a neutral tone, not one that is critical or insulting. You can even write a letter to your past self, saying words of encouragement that your past self may have needed in a difficult time in your life.
- Forgive yourself. Whether you blew a job interview, embarrassed yourself, or missed an important deadline, know that you can completely forgive yourself at the end of the day (and realize you’re only human). Would you hold a grudge or judge a friend who made the same mistake? Probably not. Don’t treat yourself any differently than you would anyone else!
- Express gratitude. Expressing gratitude is so important in shifting our mindset. There is strength in appreciating what we already have in this moment rather than wishing for what we do not. This can look like journaling 3 things that you’re grateful for everyday or saying it out loud.
By practicing self-compassion, we can begin to break negative patterns of thinking and open our eyes to new perspectives to help us grow. We hope this article will inspire you to be more kind to yourself not only on Valentine’s Day, but everyday of the year!
For more support on how you can practice self-compassion, check out our available resources or talk to one of our Registered Dietitians today.