3 Steps to a Happier You!

For greater peace of mind, learn the secrets to self-compassion

High self-esteem has long been touted by psychologists as the key to happiness and success. But these days, experts are questioning self-esteem's status as a personal cure-all — noting that it's hard to acquire, even harder to hang on to, and can lead to arrogance and narcissism.

What does create a healthy, resilient psyche, it turns out, is self-compassion. When things go badly, a be-kind-to-yourself mind-set makes you feel less anxious, depressed, and angry, and helps you recover more quickly from setbacks. Best of all, self-compassion is easy to develop.

Here's how.

Step 1: Realize that you're only human.

Goofing up, getting dumped, just plain losing it and the like happen — to everyone. "Whatever failures, losses, or humiliations we face are part of the human experience — and adding self-criticism to the mix only increases the pain. You're not unique in your trouble, and it doesn't point to a shameful personal flaw.

To embrace this frame of mind, say mantras to yourself such as, everyone goofs up now and then, or Guess I'm human after all! Reinforce this line of thinking by reminding yourself of people you know who've dealt with the same setback you're facing. You’re not alone!

Step 2: Feel your pain.

Rushing through or denying your bad feelings won't make them go away, but wallowing isn't healthy, either. Mindful acceptance — that is, truly feeling your feelings — allows you to face your pain and then move on. If you get mentally lost in blaming yourself or others, you prolong your suffering it manifests. But if you simply allow yourself to feel the emotion and let it run its course — which is often a wave that builds and tapers off — it dissipates much more quickly.

Start by closing your eyes and taking a few slow, deep breaths to center yourself, while recalling what you want: to be peaceful and free from suffering. Then focus on the physical sensations in your body, such as constriction in your chest, a tight throat, a clenched jaw. Note how those sensations shift and change. If your mind strays, gently bring it back to your body until the emotion ebbs away...

Step 3: Talk to yourself with kindness.

Now that you've moved past the difficult feelings that often come with life's obstacles, focus on comforting yourself. If you can talk to yourself as mercifully as you would to your best friend, you'll start to see yourself as worthy of that care and forgiveness. And eventually, you'll be able to tap into that self-loving mind-set whenever you're in a tough spot.

To find the right words, think about what you'd say to comfort someone close to you if he faced the same issue — then say it to yourself. Or picture a wise friend advising you lovingly; you can even write yourself a letter, as if it came from her. Try holding a small, favorite object or even a stone, when doing these processes. Keep it handy and rub it to cue up soothing feelings when you need them.

Learning to be more loving toward yourself also brings a less obvious but equally important benefit: You'll soon find yourself extending that compassion to others and, in the process, making the world a kinder place.



Ellen said...

Hi Christine, thanks for this insightfull post..
Being a perfectionist myself, self-compassion really is a tough one..
But also an important one, because the guilt and stress I'm creating for myself by not being able to do just that, is starting to get in the way of being compassionate towards others..

And indeed, practicing mindfulness has been a big help to me, still learning though ;-))..
The clear steps you're describing are definitely a next step for me on that path..
Thank you!!

April 16, 2008 at 7:52 AM
Anonymous said...


Once again..your post are amazing! I have learned so much just from reading your posts!

I have taken the past 2 weeks to slow myself down and it has helped tremendously!

April 16, 2008 at 8:09 AM
Anonymous said...

Honey...you said it so perfectly here. It is so good to understand that perfection isn't possible and how much more we need to be kind to ourselves. Yes. Yes. SIMPLY yes! I think you're remarkably intuitive my sista.

Juicy Jenn

April 17, 2008 at 7:31 PM
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