By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
When you look in the mirror, do you see the face of a friend or an enemy?
The answer to this question can say a lot about your capacity for self-compassion—your ability to treat your with kindness and caring.
Penny Donnenfield, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in counseling caregivers and their families, says self-compassion is about being able to view oneself in the same way you would view a close friend—as a person deserving of love, support, and empathy.
Many of us have an inner task-master that inhibits our ability to view ourselves through an empathetic lens. “We’re all very familiar with criticizing and comparing ourselves to others—often in an unflattering light,” Donnenfeld says, “Self-compassion is about being able to nurture yourself.”
Research has linked an ability to nurture and love oneself with a bevy of psychological benefits, including: greater happiness, optimism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, as well as lower levels of anxiety, depression, and perfectionism.
Self-hatred fueled by failure
Chronically self-critical people are constantly fighting against feelings of inadequacy, says Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of “Making Change,” a Psychology Today blog, “People push themselves too much because they feel they need to work harder than everyone else just to be ‘okay,’” she says.
It makes sense that some people would feel this way. In today’s world of constant competition and instantaneous communication it can be hard to get away from outside criticism. This makes it all the more important for us to be able to cultivate feelings of self-acceptance and contentment within our own minds.
The first step towards increasing your capacity for self-compassion is recognizing that you’re a human being—and like all members of our race, you have limits.
You can choose whether to view these limits as personal short-comings deserving of punishment, or as natural frontiers that should be honored.
Becker-Phelps feels that self-awareness is an essential component of self-compassion. The compassionately self-aware person can acknowledge and attend to their needs for rest, relaxation, and health before they become burnt out.
If you find yourself beating your head against that proverbial brick wall, try taking a step back. Grab an ice-pack for your head. Once the swelling goes down and the throbbing stops, you might just be able to find the sledgehammer that can help you turn that bothersome barricade into a pile of dust.