Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family? A growing area of psychological research called self-compassion suggests that giving our selves a break and accepting our imperfections can lead to better health and can help beat depression and anxiety. It turns out, people who find it easy to be supportive and understanding of others tend to score quite low on self-compassion tests, putting themselves down for their own perceived failures like being over weight and not exercising.
Self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence, notes Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field. It may seem obvious to be kind to yourself, but Neff, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin, told The New York Times, “[People] believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.” She uses the example of a parent whose child is doing poorly in school. Most parents would offer support, such as a tutor. But when adults find themselves in a similar situation — struggling at work or eating too much junk food--they fall into a cycle of negativity and self-criticism. “The problem is that it’s hard to unlearn habits of a lifetime,” Neff said. “People have to actively and consciously develop the habit of self-compassion.”
Could self-compassion lead to life-satisfaction? Try turning around your thinking of self-deprecation and deprivation and imagine how you would treat a small child who loved very much. How would you support them and help them feel better and be healthier? How can you be kind to yourself in this moment?