Be Good to Yourself

smiling woman wearing headscarf

The advice in this section could boil down to this:  take care of yourself—mentally and physically—as you would a friend or relative.

Practice self-compassion

Smiling womanA crucial ingredient in emotional health is self-compassion, which we think of as the basic practice of treating yourself with acceptance, kindness, and gentleness—much as you would treat another person you care deeply about.

But kindness is only part of it: researcher and psychologist Kristin Neff says that mindfulness (the practice of paying attention to what happens inside and around you with a nonjudgmental attitude) and being aware of the shared suffering of others are both important components of self-compassion. These practices appear to:

  1. Help decrease self-criticism
  2. Increase a sense of connection with others
  3. Promote better emotional responses in the face of the stress of everyday living.

It makes sense: when you’re paying attention, you become more aware of where you tend to judge or criticize yourself or others harshly, and when you take the time to contemplate the experiences of others, you may find that your perspective on your own situation feels less claustrophobic.

Some psychologists now recommend building self-compassion rather than self-esteem. While self-esteem does strive to cultivate a positive view of oneself, it can lead to self-deception and refusal to acknowledge personal limitations or opportunities to improve. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is about recognizing and accepting the imperfections as well.