As a graduating senior, intern, and RA, who also has friends and is in a committed relationship, I have a lot on my plate. In addition, I am a perfectionist with a harsh inner-critic, which is often not beneficial to my mental health and overall wellbeing. I expect a lot out of myself and tend to take on a lot of responsibility, meaning busy is my middle name. I don’t regret getting involved in my community, my internship, or working hard in my classes at all, but I am grappling with how low I have placed myself on my list of priorities these past four years. This semester, which is my last as an undergraduate student, I am making a point to practice self-compassion and set myself up for success in the future with this habit.
What Self-Compassion Looks Like
According to compassion.com, compassion is defined as:
“[recognizing] the suffering of others and then [taking] action to help. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering.”
By extension, self-compassion is acknowledging your own pain – be it physical, mental, or emotional – and then acting out of self-love to try and mitigate your suffering.
For example, I was having a very stressful and emotionally taxing day yesterday, and I was supposed to attend an hour-long Zoom meeting. Because these meetings are weekly and recorded for those who can’t attend, I decided to use that hour to take myself out to lunch, walk around campus, and find a comfortable place in the student union to sit and think instead of staring at my laptop screen. I recognized that I was not feeling well, and I took the necessary steps to try and help myself feel better instead of forcing myself to carry on as if everything was okay.
Self-compassion can look different from person to person, and from day to day. Sometimes, it’s taking a few minutes to meditate when your mind is racing with stressful and anxious thoughts. Other times, it’s reminding yourself that you are not the only one who goes through tough times and that this is a normal part of the human experience. And, at all times, it’s going to look like engaging in self-care, whether that means taking the day off and relaxing or actively silencing your inner critic.
Putting It Into Practice
The most basic component of self-compassion is to approach your suffering with the question, “How would I care for a friend if they were going through this?” Treat yourself as you would someone else you care about who is having a hard time. You have probably found yourself giving a friend a pep talk, taking a loved one out for a treat, or helping a buddy process through their problems or feelings when the going gets tough. Self-compassion involves you treating yourself with that same love, consideration, and care. Be a friend to yourself. You deserve it, you need it, and no one knows what you need to feel better than you do.
Other things you can add to a self-compassion practice are mindful and purposeful journaling, and self-compassionate meditation sessions. You can find more information on self-compassion and resources for journaling and meditation here.