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  • Writer's pictureIndira Caro, Registered Psychologist

Self-Compassion and Self-Love

Self-compassion and self-love are two related concepts. Dr. Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as "being kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings…". It means that you treat yourself the same way you treat a dear friend when going through a difficult situation. In more practical terms, it means noticing your suffering, feeling moved by it or "empathizing" and offering kindness and understanding. The word compassion means "suffering with," which summarizes these three tasks.

According to Khoshaba, self-love is "a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth." It is about valuing oneself as a human being worthy of love and respect.

Self-love is different than self-compassion. While being compassionate towards yourself is a choice that can be made at any moment, self-love is more likely to build up over time and that you need to work to keep.

There has been a lot of research around these two concepts. Even though it might sound a bit like a cliche, the studies have shown that having love and compassion towards oneself is not only not selfish but also helps us do our best around us. Therefore, it also positively impacts others near us. If you are not feeling well about yourself, you are likely in no position to produce your best work or be a good partner, parent, or friend.

Self-compassion is one of the vital components that protect us against depression and the adverse outcomes it brings with it. Those with low self-compassion are at greater risk of using avoidance strategies for not facing their problems and more rumination over their negative thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion can also act as a buffer between us and self-judgment and isolation, which are prevalent issues in depression. Individuals who have higher self-compassion are generally less affected by the symptoms of depression. Also, when confronted with them, they are better able to cope with them.

As mentioned earlier, there are many, many benefits to self-compassion. Some of the additional benefits include greater happiness, higher optimism, motivation, willingness to take the initiative, increased curiosity, learning, and exploration of our environment.

The initial step to improving your self-compassion and self-love is determining where you are in those areas. Start by merely sitting and thinking about how you feel about yourself, think about and talk about yourself to others, and more importantly, how you speak to yourself. This exercise can give you a pretty good idea about where you are in these areas. Reflecting on this can give you great insight into your needs.

Self-love expert Margaret Paul outlined six essential steps you can take to enhance your love for yourself. This process enhances your emotional self-healing abilities. All you need to do is practice these steps regularly to progressively improve your ability to love yourself.

Step 1: Be willing to feel pain and take responsibility for your feelings.

This step involves being willing to accept the present as it is without wanting to change it. That is, being mindful and accepting what is.

Step 2: Move into the intent of learning about your emotions.

Being curious about your emotions, even the ones that may cause pain.

Step 3: Learn about your false beliefs.

Explore what kind of messages you have been carrying with you that make you see life as if looking through a negative filter. These messages might come from the internalized voice of others or from our prior experiences.

Step 4: Start a dialogue with your higher self.

When your heart is open to learning, wisdom can come from within. It takes time and practice to cultivate this type of internal dialogue since many of us are used to listening to our critical voice.

Step 5: Take loving action.

Loving oneself is much more than just a feeling. It is essential to take action. Self-care is the way we demonstrate in action to ourselves that we are important, that we matter. Self-care looks different for everyone. The important thing is to intentionally engage in practices that soothe us and let us show our love and care.

Step 6: Evaluate your action and begin again as needed.

As you complete these steps, you want to check what is working well and what you can tweak and improve. Remember, self-love is a process, and your needs can change over time.

Over time, you will discover that loving oneself improves everything in your life. It will positively impact your relationships, your health and your well-being. Loving and connecting with oneself is the root of loving and connecting with others and creating caring relationships. Loving oneself is the key to creating a productive and happy life.

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