Why Self-Compassion Continues to be a Struggle


Showing kindness to yourself is not as easy as it may sound

Being soft, caring and understanding of a family member, friend or neighbor seems like a skill most people have acquired throughout life. Being compassionate and providing a shoulder to lean on for others during difficult times is what many of us do to show love and care toward others. However, when it comes to ourselves going through struggles, we most often find that we meet ourselves with negative self-talk, degrading comments and harsh criticism. Mental health communities have continued to stress the need to talk to ourselves about how we would approach someone else going through what we are. Society, though, has conditioned us to do everything besides this to ourselves. 

Society continues to place a lot of pressure on individuals to achieve and be successful in their careers, academics and lives in general. So when we ourselves do not live up to this expectation, we meet ourselves with belittling and judgemental thoughts. The words we say to ourselves in theory are supposed to push us harder to succeed next time, but in reality, they can lead to feelings of worthlessness. Self-esteem in individuals who engage in negative-self talk is extremely low as they not only do not meet societal criteria for them to be successful, but they are disappointing themselves. Feeling like a burden and waste of space continues to emerge from a lack of compassion towards oneself. 

The difficulties of practicing kindness towards oneself continue to emerge as it may cause an individual to confront painful memories of why they meet their thoughts with such hostility and judgment. Often, negative feelings towards oneself are rooted in past experiences that have contributed to a person’s trauma. Dissociating and avoiding these past experiences is a coping skill for many, but it inhibits one’s ability to practice self-compassion. Discovering how to grow from these experiences and accepting that they have made us into the people we are today is strongly correlated with beginning the process of self-kindness.

Exercising self-compassion continues to have significant healing effects as people report having more of their emotional needs met and building a loving relationship with themselves. This ultimately leads to them building stronger relationships with others and being more productive in all aspects of their lives. When an individual has a negative thought, they need to rewire it into a positive message. The process may seem tedious and even ridiculous at first, but a habit will eventually form within the person’s mindset. Once this tendency has a firm foundation, a person will engage in self-compassion without even realizing they have made the transition. 

Speaking from personal experience, engaging in self-compassion is something that has never come easy to me and is still a constant battle in my mind. Thinking critically and harshly about my actions continues to come first to my mind. These judgemental thoughts are so common I sometimes do not even think about rewiring how I speak to myself. They are second-hand nature to my mindset. However, I have come to realize that this pattern is self-destructive. I continue to try to show myself compassion for why I acted in a certain way. I have to approach myself with kindness knowing that I reacted to a situation with the tools and knowledge that I had in those set of circumstances. Acknowledging and working towards this are steps I continue to prioritize in reaching a loving relationship with who I am today and who I will be in the future.

Changing how we talk to ourselves and meeting ourselves with the same compassion we would others have tremendously beneficial effects. The challenge of overcoming the barrier society has placed in front of us from not meeting ourselves with kindness is not a simple one to overcome, but with dedication and motivation, a person can engage in positive self-talk. Meeting oneself with compassion is the first step in loving yourself and consequently others more deeply. Although a slow and challenging process, starting to show compassion to yourself will change who you are and your outlook on the world.

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