The Power of Self-Compassion: Quarantine & Beyond
Cover Art: Lorrainne Sorlet
Self-Compassion: More Helpful Than Self Esteem?
Self-esteem (the level to which we evaluate ourselves positively) is generally considered a foundational part of our mental and emotional wellbeing.
However, as we learn more about healthy growth and development in children and what supports wellbeing in adults, the focus on self-esteem is coming into question. This is because having positive self-esteem is usually understood as reliant on personal achievement or feeling special, which invites us to compare ourselves to others. We tend to understand and experience self-esteem as feeling better than or superior to others.
As a result, self-esteem can be a fair-weather friend. It is there for us when things are going well, and we feel on top, but when we run into life’s obstacles, self-esteem is often not available to us. We are left with no support for our psyche and sense of self when we need it the most. What is the alternative?
There is emerging research suggesting the practice of self-compassion has the benefits of self-esteem without the drawbacks. Let’s take a moment to look more closely at self-compassion as it is a relatively easy concept that can be challenging to practice. Simply stated, self-compassion is being kind to ourselves. We are self-compassionate when we are aware of and responding to our own suffering with kindness. Noted author and researcher, Kristen Neff tells us that “instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.”
Unlike self-esteem, which relies on our achievements, we are able to offer self-compassion to ourselves at any time, just on the virtue of being human and being alive.
The power of self-compassion is that it is unconditional. When we take the time to learn the practices of self-compassion (self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity), we will find ourselves a strength that we can draw on, even in our lowest moments.
Self-Compassion During COVID-19
Self-compassion can be a helpful tool if the pandemic is causing you unnecessary anxiety, limiting your ability to work or travel, reducing your income, or if you or someone you know has already contracted the virus. A self-compassionate response to the COVID-19 outbreak may look something like this:
- Mindfulness – Become aware of how you feel about the virus. Are you feeling anxious, disheartened, confused? Can you feel it in your body? If so, where? Is your mind preoccupied with the virus? If so, what are your thoughts? Can you validate for yourself how you think or feel in a kind and understanding manner? For example, “Yes, this is hard.” “This is difficult.” “This is really stressful.” Can you offer yourself a little space around your feelings, knowing that it’s part of the current situation we’re all in?
- Common humanity – When you hear news of people struggling with the virus, can you allow this to enhance your sense of being part of a global family rather than feeling separate? Can you imagine yourself in their situation and say, “Just like me.” Or when you reflect on your own distress, can you remind yourself, “Others feel as I do—I am not alone.” “Sickness is part of living.” “This is how it feels to be a human being right now.”
- Self-Kindness – Try putting your hand on heart or some other soothing place, helping to calm some of your anxiety through touch. What words do you need to hear to comfort or reassure yourself about the virus right now? Are they realistic? Can you talk to yourself in a warm, compassionate voice? What actions do you need to take to protect yourself, or to provide for yourself? Can you encourage yourself to take these steps, in a supportive manner?
Notice if this practice makes you feel more relaxed and compassionate or encourages you to take positive action. Feel free to find your own way to be compassionate with yourself, perhaps by engaging in everyday self-care behaviors such as enjoying a cup of tea, listening to your favorite music, or taking a warm bath.
Remember, the COVID-19 virus is also an opportunity. (Source: Drs Chris Germer and Kristin Neff , Cofounders of the Center for Mindful Compassion)
If you would like to learn more about Self-Compassion:
- Watch a short animated video here: https://vimeo.com/153483613?fbclid=IwAR1Qt-Vk4lUgVDZfrfRlaQKGGvZ8iCail0ABJTNOZ-WQRNPJo4Lh7aDk0K8
- Watch Kirsten Neff discuss self-esteem vs self-compassion here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/compassion-matters/201610/the-many-benefits-self-compassion
- And if you are worried practicing self-compassion will keep you from being accountable and moving forward, read what Kristen Neff has to say about self-compassion and motivation here: https://self-compassion.org/the-motivational-power-of-self-compassion/
For COVID-19 Specific Resources – visit our Resources Page and check out the Parents & Families section for family-friendly activities and mental health resources.
For Children’s Mental Health – Front Door offers support, strategies, services, and resources. To get started, visit their website www.frontdoormentalhealth.com or call 519-749-2932.
For Individual Support – Carizon continues to offer counselling and support sessions via phone and video chat. To get started, please call (519) 743-6333.