Love Yourself: Doctor’s Orders

The phrase “self-love” is more common in today’s vocabulary than ever before. Social Media has especially drawn a spotlight on this now colloquially used concept, which ultimately encourages people to not only accept—but love—themselves for who they are.

Moreover, many outspoken celebrities and self-love advocates ranging from Demi Lovato, Chrissy Teigen, and Amy Schumer have enabled pop culture to create a snowball effect, generating popularity to the idea of “self-love” and all that it embodies.

Though embracing your physical-self is undoubtedly important, loving your inner-self is arguably even more so.  Consequently, the act of being self-compassionate toward who we are on the inside can prove more challenging than striving for self-love with the physical body we occupy.  Self-compassion embodies the idea of self-love, but it strides to be a love more profound than what sits at surface-level—it reaches to the core of who we are underneath it all.

What is self-compassion, anyhow?

Self-compassion and self-love seem to be synonymous, but psychologists recognize the former on a more pragmatic level. Self-compassion expert Kristin Neff defines this concept in three basic components:

  1. Mindfulness (maintaining a balanced perspective in the midst of struggle)
  2. Common humanity (acknowledging that struggling is a shared part of the human experience)
  3. Self-kindness (responding to oneself with care and understanding when struggling)

Through examining self-compassion in the light of these three different lenses, it can be easier to break down and apply into our daily lives—which is something that psychologists strongly urge.

Here’s what the experts say:

Recent research overwhelmingly supports the fact that being self-compassionate is directly linked to positive mental health.  In fact, studies show that self-compassion can even “promote well-being following treatment for [a] serious, life-threatening illness.”

Furthermore, psychologists have found that adolescents who practice self-compassion report “less depression, anxiety, and stress, less engagement in self-injurious behavior and fewer suicide attempts.” The use of self-compassion even held reports of diminishing substance abuse rates and overall feelings of failure as well.

With the exponential list of researched-backed benefits of incorporating self-compassion into our daily lives, the case for why we should be self-compassionate seems sound.

Yet, many of us don’t know where to start on the long journey of starting to love ourselves, truly from the inside out. Fortunately, self-compassion is a learnable trait—and the payoffs are well worth the effort of building this skill into our daily routine.

How can I become more self-compassionate?

Harvard Health recommends the following tools to foster a habit of showing compassion toward yourself, congruently strengthening general mental health in the long run:

  1. Comfort your body.

Whether this means doing some stretching, bundling yourself up on the couch in a fluffy blanket, eating something healthy, or simply taking a nice stroll, making your body feel physically good is itself an act of self-compassion.

  1. Write a letter to yourself.

Create a narrative of your life or simply recall an event that needs to be put to rest. By writing out your feelings, you can leave them on the paper—validating their existence, yet at the same time releasing them from preoccupying your mind.

  1. Give yourself encouragement.

An easy way to learn to treat yourself with the compassion you deserve is to treat yourself as you would a friend or close family member. Give yourself the love and support you would offer them if they were in the same situation you were.

  1. Practice mindfulness.

Meditation has been found to improve overall-mental health, especially in relieving stress and anxiety.  By taking the time to allow our body to relieve itself from stress, we are at the same time practicing self-compassion.

In the process of cultivating the much-needed skill of showing ourselves compassion, we also string along a whole other list of benefits, such as strengthening our resilience, learning to cope in a healthy way, and improving our overall emotional well-being.

Loving oneself is a skill that takes time to perfect, however, the act of being compassionate to oneself is hardly every perfect. Perfection is not the intended goal though—it’s all in the practice, and though each act of compassion toward ourselves may feel small, they are the building blocks for a strong foundation of falling in love with who we are—and all that we can be.

Sources:

Stapleton, P., Crighton, G. J., Carter, B., & Pidgeon, A. (2017). Self-esteem and body image in females: The mediating role of self-compassion and appearance contingent self-worth. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(3), 238-257.

Karen Bluth & Kristin D. Neff (2018) New frontiers in understanding the benefits of self-compassion, Self and Identity, 17:6, 605-608

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/4-ways-to-boost-your-self-compassion

About the Author

Cameron Gordon Cameron Gordon is a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara pursuing a double major in English and Spanish. Both passionate about writing and promoting the importance of mental health, Gordon aspires to attain a career centered around writing and education.

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