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4 Ways to Treat Yourself With More Compassion

2. Stop trying to fix yourself.

Key points

  • To practice self-compassion, you need only be kind to yourself.
  • Quieting the inner critic is an act of self-compassion.
  • Learn to ask for help, and learn to say "no."
Source: Ben_Kerckx/Pixabay

Many people find it easy to be compassionate toward others but struggle to be self-compassionate. Compassion simply means being kind to yourself and others. To direct it at yourself, think of how you’d treat a loved one in need, and treat yourself that way.

Compassion is often more than just feeling kind-hearted. It calls for action aimed at alleviating emotional suffering—again, in others as well as yourself.

Here are four ways to treat yourself with compassion:

1. Ask for help if you need it.

Most of us are happy to help others, but when we ourselves need help, we think we’re not deserving. Learning to ask for help may require that you undo years of conditioning that’s led you to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s not.

And so, asking for help is a skill that most of us need to develop. Try it at first with small “asks,” and when you do, think of it as evidence of self-compassion. This way, your ability to ask for help will get easier and easier. For more on this, see my post “How to Ask for Help.”

2. Stop trying to fix yourself.

You are not a self-improvement project! You are a human being with flaws just like the rest of us. In the words of Zen teacher Cheri Huber: “You are taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect. But there isn’t and you’re not.”

This striving for perfection is fed by the media, particularly social media. You might check in with yourself on this: Are you always comparing yourself to others and deciding you come up short? If so, remember people tend to only post good news and “happy photos” about themselves on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. You might see a selfie of a friend having what appears to be the best time of her life on vacation. What you don’t see is this same “behind the scenes” friend whose back is in terrible pain or who is worried she’s already spent too much money on restaurants.

A quick way to switch gears from self-criticism to self-compassion is to remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I keep these six words on the night table next to my bed. Why there? Because it’s when I’m tired at the end of the day that I start to think that I need to fix myself: “He always looks happy in his Instagram photos; I should be happy all the time.” (No one is happy all the time.) Or, “Look at everything she’s doing; I need to start doing more instead of being so lazy.” (I’ll say this to myself even though I’m already overextended.)

This is the voice of the inner critic—that inner judge that follows us around, criticizing our every move.

One more point on being “self-fixers”—always comparing ourselves to others and always coming up short. I suggest that, every few weeks, you assess whether you’ve taken on too much in this effort to “fix” what’s not broken (i.e., you!). This assessment is helpful because being overextended sneaks up on us slowly, especially if we believe that we need to do more and more in our delusive striving for perfection.

(For more on this, see my post “You Can’t Fix Everything.”)

3. Learn to say “no.”

This has always been a struggle for me. Why is it so hard to say “no”? Many of us have been conditioned from birth to do more and more…and more. It seems to be a cultural imperative. In addition, we’re likely to have been raised to always please others, and so we may be afraid they will judge us negatively if we say “no." We may also be afraid we’ll judge ourselves negatively. Obviously, sometimes we need to say “yes” when we’d rather say “no”—for example, when a friend or family member is in need. But more often than not, saying “no” is a way of taking care of ourselves. That makes it a self-compassionate act.

4. Don’t blame yourself when things don’t go as you’d planned.

In my book How to Wake Up, I include a little exercise. When you get up in the morning, make a list of what you plan to do that day. Put it aside. Then, at the end of the day, pick up your list to see if it resembles how your day unfolded. There will be many a day when there’s little resemblance at all.

This is because, as John Lennon put it, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” The purpose of including this little exercise in my book was to help the reader see that we control much less of our lives than we think we do, and that engaging in self-blame when things don’t go as we’d planned is not fair to ourselves.

Be kind to yourself, dear readers.

LinkedIn/Facebook image: Ranta Images/Shutterstock

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