Help… I can’t treat myself with compassion!

Question: I think I do treat others with kindness and compassion..But when it comes to me… I think I am my tormentor… I keep berating and pulling down myself…I have heard that I need to be more gentle with myself more compassionate…. but how I can I be?

Answer: True Compassion is not just an emotional response but is based on reflection and reason. Mercilessly judging, criticizing and pulling yourself down, torments oneself as you have correctly mentioned.

Let us look at self-compassion as an alternative response when faced with any personal shortcomings. Personal mistakes and failures is part of the human experience –something that we all go through. Compassion is to accept that nobody can be perfect all the time 24 X 7, it means that you honor and accept your humanness. Compassion by nature is soft, gentle and peaceful but it is also very powerful. With self-compassion, greater emotional balance and equilibrium is achieved- instead of getting pulled into the downward spiral of negative emotions one can calmly and non-judgmentally put things in perspective. You must have seen the benefits of being compassionate towards others, you can introspect what factors/fears
come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others differently? The same compassion that you extend towards others can also be directed inward, thereby being a good friend to your own self. There are various ways of developing self-compassion: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither denied nor exaggerated. You can reframe your critical self-talk in a more constructive, friendly and compassionate talk. Another way is to think: How would you respond to your friend in this situation?

Question: I am confused. Is it not wrong to be compassionate toward one’s own self? Would it not be like fooling myself? Is it not like pitying oneself? I feel it would be a sign of poor mental health.
Answer: Self-compassion is the polar opposite of self-pity. When individuals feel self-pity, they become absorbed in their own problems and feel that they are the only ones in the world who are suffering. Self-pity tends to exaggerate personal suffering and distances oneself from others. In such a situation there is no balanced or objective perspective. Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows one to see the experiences without feelings of isolation/ exaggeration of the negative emotions. By being compassionate towards one self, we recognize the broader context of our experience and try to put things in a calm perspective.

A common myth about self-compassion is that it just means letting ourselves off the responsibility for our actions. However, self-compassion helps us to understand the causes and conditions that lead us to act as we do, we no longer have the need to deny or distort our actions by blaming others. Self-compassion is -understanding and accepting rather than harsh, punishing and shaming. At the same time, compassion is concerned with the removal of suffering — our own and that of others as we can see ourselves more clearly and do what’s needed to make things better. Hence self-compassion is not self-pity nor it is letting yourself off the hook, it is the sign of inner courage and mental strength to accept & face your shortcomings and the motivation to improve and go forward.

Expert: Ms Parisha Jijina, Clinical Psychologist,

Assistant Professor, M.S University, Vadodara