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The Importance of Self-Compassion

I was waiting for my car to be inspected at the local Jiffy Lube and I saw this message:

When people see some things as beautiful,

Other things become ugly

When people see some things as good,

Other things become bad.

It got me thinking about the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. While self-esteem gets lots of hype and we talk about the importance of making sure our young people grow up with self-esteem, my feeling is that self-compassion is more important that self-esteem. Self-esteem goes to our ego and is a slightly narcissistic was to look at ourselves while self-compassion is a more inclusive way of looking at ourselves.

Self-esteem is comparing yourself to others. It is giving yourself a value and using that value to compare to others. As our value goes up (we won the beauty contest- we were seen as beautiful while the others were seen as ugly) or down (we have to stay after school because of talking in class while others went home-others are seen as good and we are seen as bad), so goes our self-esteem. This means that our self-esteem tends to fluctuate depending on the circumstances around us (beauty contest or detention) and that leaves us vulnerable to the perception of other people and not to or own feelings about ourselves.

Self-compassion is different from self-esteem because it is controlled by us and not others. There are three pillars of self-compassion: self- kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Self-kindness means that we are gentle and understanding to ourselves when something does not go the way we planned. Life happens in different ways and it will not always go the way that we want it to. When it doesn’t go how we want it to, we need to be gentle with ourselves instead of going to an angry place and beating ourselves up. We aren’t always going to get what we want. If we can accept this fact with kindness to ourselves, we can silence the inner critic that leads to stress and anxiety.

Common humanity means that we are all part of the human experience. When something does not go our way, we tend to think that we are the only one in this situation. That can be a very lonely place to be. We need to know that all humans suffer from many of the same thoughts and feelings that we are experiencing. Self-compassion recognizes that we are not alone in these feelings. These feelings are common to all humans and we need to make sure we do not remove ourselves and suffer alone.

The third piece of self-compassion is mindfulness. In this case, mindfulness means balancing the thoughts we are having that are causing our inner critic to speak up. We need to pay attention to the thoughts while also keeping them in perspective. By doing this, we are able to connect our personal experience with others who are suffering. We can know that we are not alone. Our self-compassion will connect us to other humans and balance out the way we are thinking. By balancing these thoughts, we can look at them from a different place.

We can look inside ourselves and keep in mind that we can see ourselves as beautiful and see others as beautiful. We can look inside ourselves and see ourselves as good at the same time as seeing others as good. We can control our feelings and not leave them up to someone else. We need to concentrate on what we can control (our feelings toward ourselves) and not what others can control (their feeling towards us). This will help us stay on the path to a peaceful life.

By the way, my car is now officially good to do per the State of New York DMV.

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