March 09, 2018

Self-Compassion: Why it's Important and How to Practice – Andi Stone

an easy self compassion practiceAs a facilitator of many group therapy sessions, one sentence that I hear quite often is, “I’m sorry.”

The over use of the words “I’m sorry” in groups has even led me to make what I call “The Sorry Rule.”

When someone apologizes unnecessarily during a group therapy session, I tell them that they have broken the Sorry Rule. And, when one breaks the Sorry Rule, they are provided with an opportunity to state two positive qualities about themselves.

You may note that I used the word “opportunity.” Most clients at first do not view this experience as an opportunity. Rather, they see it as quite a dreadful experience. 

And yet, the individuals who agree to share favorable attributes about themselves (when they break the Sorry Rule) start to become increasingly willing to accept these attributes as fact.

Their willingness to see their own strengths is an important foundation for the development of self-compassion.

Can you increase your own self-compassion?

Do you find yourself apologizing more than you should? How many times have you apologized for something that you probably didn’t need to be apologizing for?

For instance, do you apologize when you:
  • Accidentally interrupt someone
  • Say something that does not resonate for someone else
  • Think you are taking up too much time in a conversation
  • Don’t know how you feel about something
  • Get bumped into by someone else in a public place
More importantly, is your over-apologizing masking any feelings of unworthiness? Is your over-apologizing covering up for a lack of self-compassion within? Would it help you to work on increasing your own self-compassion?

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is being “kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings,” says self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff. In a culture where we are constantly pushed to do more, have more and be more — it’s easy to feel as if we aren’t enough; it’s easy to continue to focus on changing ourselves, ignoring how important it is to work on developing self-compassion within.

Can’t we just be enough — as we are?

How to develop self-compassion

Thankfully, there are steps we can take each day to help us strengthen our own self-compassion. You can start a self-compassion practice by taking just a few minutes each day to show some kindness to yourself. Here’s how:
  1. Practice Gratitude:  Each day, take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for and/or send a “thank you” text to someone you appreciate.
  2. Practice acceptance. Instead of criticizing yourself, embrace what you might consider to be your imperfections, failures and setbacks. No one is perfect. Use these opportunities, when self-criticism is kicking in, to remind yourself to be kind not critical of yourself.
  3. Practice mindfulness. Use your daily mindfulness practice to notice the warmth that you feel within when you choose kindness over self-criticism.
 
Write down or print out the above steps and take time each day to practice them. Notice how you feel, before and after your practice. Notice how you feel in one month or in three-months after you’ve developed a regular self-compassion practice.
 
Developing self-compassion takes significant effort but it can be done! The effort must be active, not passive. The effort must also be practiced over and over again until you believe in it and have fully integrated it into your life.

Read more blogs on the topic of mood, anxiety and recovery.

Get a better sense of how self-compassionate you are by taking a quiz on self-compassion here. To learn more about self-compassion, visit the Self-Compassion website by author and researcher Kristin Neff.

Andi Stone, PsyD is the Clinical Director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at ERC/Insight Behavioral Health Centers in Chicago, IL.
 
 
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