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  • Writer's pictureDeirdre

Mental Health and Self-esteem. Is Self-Compassion actually more useful?

Often society places great emphasis on self-esteem, we are often told we need high self-esteem in order to be happy. The word average seems to have become an insult. Having good self-esteem requires us to believe that we are special and proud of ourselves. This requires us to constantly compare ourselves to others so that we can see ourselves as better than others.

However this self-comparison can have a severe downside in that we also tend to be harsh on ourselves with self-criticism when we don’t meet our high standards. Also self-esteem tends to desert us just when we need it most, i.e. when we are feeling sad or rejected. What if we could learn to feel good about ourselves, not because we’re special and above average, but because we are fundamentally human beings worthy of respect?

Self-compassion is a central principle of Buddhism, It is not about judging ourselves positively it’s a way of relating to ourselves kindly. It’s about accepting the basic human condition that we are flawed. We are not perfect, there is no such thing. Striving to achieve perfection or exceptionalism means we must view ourselves as better than other people, so we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, this can foster self-loathing and narcissism and is not a good ingredient for good mental health. Self-compassion allows us to feel good about ourselves without needing to feel better than others.

Sometimes we believe that if we are too kind to ourselves we will become self-indulgent and lazy. However self-criticism causes high level of stress in our bodies. By tapping into our care giving systems of warmth, gentle touch and compassion we release the feel good hormones and are in a better state of mind.

Self-compassion is not self-pity, when we fall into self-pity we become immersed in our own problems and forget that others have similar problems, we can feel like we are the only ones suffering.

How can we cultivate more self-compassion?

1 ) Treat ourselves with kindness, like we would treat a good friend, with patience, kindness and empathy. We often treat ourselves extremely harshly, worse than we would ever treat anyone else. Listen to how you speak to yourself….

2) Allow ourselves to be human. What does it mean to be human? The shared human experience is of messy and imperfect lives, connect to this shared experience.

3) Accept the fact that we are suffering in order to give ourselves compassion. Allow yourself to feel painful emotions and accept them in the moment instead of denying and avoiding them.

If you would like help exploring this further then why not get in touch.


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