By Melissa Albers, Intern
This last semester I took a course called “Positive Psychology” as an elective in my Psychology degree. While this is a difficult subject to explain, the basic idea is that instead of focusing on what can go wrong with people psychologically, we can instead focus on what people can do right. Some common examples of positive psychology are mindfulness, savoring, growth mindset, and cognitive re-framing. But in this post I would like to discuss the topic that struck a chord with me: self-compassion.
Self-compassion is based on three important ideas: kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity. It is used when we mess up or are disappointed in ourselves. The first aspect, kindness, is shown when we don’t beat ourselves up for a mistake. For instance, think of your best friend or a family member. If they made a mistake, would you tear them down for it? Would you tell them they were an idiot and worthless? Of course not. So why do we often tell ourselves that? Treating yourself with kindness means being forgiving when you make a mistake and taking care of yourself through that mistake.
Mindfulness is the idea that we can’t simply ignore our negative feelings. When we mess up or something doesn’t go our way, it is okay to feel disappointed and upset. You shouldn’t ignore the feeling, but you also shouldn’t dwell on it. Acknowledge and experience the emotion and then let it go. When you have a negative thought or feeling, let it approach you and land on you, like a butterfly. Be still and let it rest before it takes off again.
Finally, self-compassion deals with the idea of a common humanity. Essentially, everyone else messes up and makes mistakes just as much as we do. This is a part of the human experience, and we should embrace it just as we embrace joy in accomplishments. Your negative experience is shared by many other people in this world, and in that fact, you can find comfort and strength. Feelings are a part of the human experience. You aren’t the only one who has been overlooked for a position or promotion, felt disappointed in your choices, or has had their heart broken by a friend or loved one.
Self-compassion isn’t always easy, but it’s something I’m trying to get better at every day. When you practice self-compassion, it can lower your anxiety, self-criticism, and depression. It can also increase your connectivity to others. So while you may stumble and mess up along the way, don’t beat yourself up for it-- have self-compassion instead and keep moving forward.
Melissa Albers is an intern at Unlimited Potential Counseling and Education Center.