Is Self-Compassion the New Mindfulness?

Self-CompassionSocieties constant desire for the new, for innovation, for an updated trend, means that as soon as something becomes popular for many people it also becomes passé. This is something that we often see in popular music, fashion and technology but this same attitude is also affecting how we approach our mental health and wellbeing. According to an article recently published in Mindful magazine, mindfulness is out and self-compassion is in. The piece states that “attending without judgment is out and compassion for you as an antidote to your perceived low self-worth, failure, or any other form of suffering is definitely in.” But actually, it’s not that simple because in reality the two concepts are inextricably linked.

The fact is that mindfulness and self-compassion are born of the same concept: in fact, a study by Berkeley University found that practicing mindfulness can help to make you more compassionate. Mindfulness involves looking inwards, and facing the world with kindness and compassion, both for those that you meet as you cultivate a renewed interest in the world and for yourself. So what, exactly, is self-compassion and how can developing it benefit you during your mindful journey?

Understanding Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is a relatively simple concept: it means to be kind to yourself, to forgive yourself for any mistakes (both real, perceived and imaginary) and putting any feelings of self-loathing behind you. Kristin Neff, the founder of the Mindful Self Compassion programme, has described self-compassion as being constructed from three core concepts– self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. It is a particularly useful concept if you have made what you consider to be bad life decisions (such as succumbing to addiction) or have a difficult relationship with friends or family. Effectively self-compassion means treating yourself with the same kindness and gentleness when you are experiencing failure or having a difficult time as you would treat a loved one, or even a stranger, if you encountered them in the same situation. We often treat ourselves so much more critically than we would anyone else, and this criticism and self-loathing can be counter-productive.

Although it can be difficult to hear, above all self-compassion teaches one important message: you are not perfect. Nobody is. Once you stop striving for protection and accept that you’re great just the way you are, you’ll be amazed at how free your mind will feel, and how beneficial this understanding will be to your mental health.

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

As we have already learnt, mindfulness is integral to self-compassion: it is one of the three core concepts of the programme. You’ll find that in many workshops the two concepts are taught in conjunction and most practitioners will consider them to be complimentary to each other. So how can you combine the skills you have already learnt through practicing mindfulness and use these to develop self-compassion? The key is to think about what your core values are: what is important to you? Where would you like to be in five years? What would you like to hear people say about you when reading your eulogy? Once you have established what qualities, life goals and character traits are important to you, you will have a better awareness of how you are living and what you need to change in order to reach your goals. At this point you can let the other stuff go (stop sweating the small stuff) and stop putting unnecessary pressure on yourself for things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. This is what sits at the heart of self-compassion: it isn’t about accepting mediocrity, as many critics of the concept would suggest, but about choosing where to focus your self-improvement effects and only focus on those areas which would bring enrichment to your life.

Self-Compassion is a wonderful life skill that everyone should aim to develop. Just like mindfulness, it can truly enrich your life, and when practiced properly you will be amazed at the positive effect it can have on your mental health and wellbeing.

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Gemma Hunt

Previous to starting my career as a freelancer I worked for many years in business and finance. When I became a mother, I decided to turn to writing to make a living and now pen articles on as many different topics as I can - from news and current affairs through to pieces on money matters.

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