You want me to be nice to myself?
Yep. The research on self-compassion is pretty clear. When we treat ourselves with the kindness that we usually reserve for other people, we:
- handle stress better
- are less anxious and depressed
- bounce back from trauma and adversity faster
- take better care of ourselves
Self-compassion is the tendency to treat yourself with kindness and warmth instead of self-criticism or self-pity. It involves objectively recognizing your pain and suffering, seeing those feelings as part of the human condition that connects you to everyone else on the planet, and responding to yourself with compassion and gentleness.
It's the opposite of how we so often to respond to ourselves.
Most of us are pretty practiced at self-criticism. We respond to our failures, mistakes, and set-backs with harsh words and attacks, often with the belief that being critical will make us work harder. But attacking yourself with harsh words - things you'd probably never say to someone you don't even like, let alone someone you do - doesn't make you stronger and better. It usually makes you defensive, angry, demotivated, and full of shame.
Self-compassion lowers your vulnerability to stress.
Caring for yourself the same way you care for other people makes it easier to handle stress. It allows you the space to accept yourself, flaws and all, and to handle set-backs and disappointments with balance. People with self-compassionate mindsets get less stressed out by challenges and recover faster from negative feedback, stress, and trauma.
Humanitarians need self-compassion.
I strongly believe that everyone can benefit from being compassionate to themselves. But humanitarians have a particular need to work on their self-compassion. There's an unfortunate mindset prevalent in this field that taking care of yourself is selfish, that you should be able to handle it and if you can't, you're not cut out for it.
Let me turn that on its head: Putting your own needs on hold doesn't make you a hero. It makes you burnt-out, cynical, exhausted and ineffective.
Focusing on self-compassion isn't selfish, it's essential. It helps you handle the stress of being faced with unrelenting suffering and not being able to do enough, of overwhelming workloads that surpass the number of hours in a day, the feeling of never doing enough or being enough.
Self-compassion is what keeps you going when urgent work comes in just as you're shutting down for the day, when you're faced with another family you can't help, when the next disaster hits.
Cope with Kindness
When you sign up for the Cope with Kindness mini-course, you'll get a series of eight e-lessons on self-compassion. Each lesson includes a brief (3-5 minute) assignment for you to practice the core components of self-compassion: mindfulness, connection, and kindness. The lessons are spread out over two weeks. You can repeat the course as many times as you like.
The cost is your time. The benefit is peace of mind.
Disclaimer: This course is not a substitute for psychiatric or psychological care. It is an educational course on self-compassion, not a form of psychotherapy or counseling. If you are suffering from a serious mental health problem, I strongly encourage you to get in touch with your family doctor or a licensed mental health professional for help.