Increasing Self Compassion
By Matthew Tull Ph.D
Many people with a diagnosis of PTSD struggle with self-compassion. The symptoms of PTSD can be very intense and can disrupt many areas of a person's life. As a result, people with PTSD may start to experience feelings of guilt or shame, have negative thoughts about themselves, or feel worthless or like a failure.
A lack of self-compassion can have a huge impact on recovery from PTSD. A lack of self-compassion may decrease motivation to continue through those difficult moments in treatment.
It may increase feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. For example, a person might think, "I am a failure, so what is the point with continuing with treatment?" A lack of self-compassion can also bring about strong feelings of shame and guilt, which can make emotions even more difficult to manage. Finally, low self-compassion may lead to self-destructive behaviors. For example, a person might begin to engage in deliberate self-harm as a form of self-punishment.
Self-compassion can be difficult to increase; however, it is very important to do so. Below are some strategies for fostering a stronger sense of self-compassion.
Recognize That You Are Human
First, remember that you are human. Oftentimes people will set very high expectations that cannot be met. For example, a person with PTSD may have in their mind a timeline for when their symptoms should be eliminated through treatment. Different people progress through treatment at different paces. Some people notice immediate gains, whereas others may take a little more time to notice benefits from treatment.
Setting very high standards or expectations increases the likelihood that you are not going to meet those expectations, which can increase feelings of worthlessness, helpless, hopelessness, and failure. Recognize that you are human and that there are going to be times when you struggle or slip. This is normal and actually a positive part of the process of recovery. Those moments of struggle can help you identify areas you need to continue to work on, as well as help you identify additional coping strategies to prevent similar struggles in the future.
Be Mindful of Negative Self-Focused Thoughts
Just because you have a negative self-focused thought does not mean it is true. Our thoughts are largely the result of habit. We cannot always trust our thoughts, and this is especially the case for negative thoughts about the self. Such thoughts generally only result in more shame and guilt.
Mindfulness can be a very useful strategy for managing negative thoughts. Being mindful of thoughts helps you take a step back from your thoughts, not connecting with them or buying into them as truth. This will decrease their intensity and eventually decrease the frequency with which they occur.
When people feel low self-compassion, they are at greater risk for engaging in self-destructive behaviors or isolating. When you are experiencing low self-compassion, it is very important to act in a way that is counter to that low self-compassion. Remember, even if we cannot always control our thoughts or feelings, one thing that we can always have some level of control over is our behavior and the choices we make. Therefore, when you are feeling worthless, act in a way that is opposite to that feeling. Basically, engage in some kind of self-care activity. Do something nice for yourself and your body.
Self-care may be a difficult thing to do if you are having very strong negative thoughts or feelings; however, even a small self-care activity can prevent these thoughts and feelings from taking hold. Acting as though you care about yourself can eventually bring about actual feelings and thoughts of self-compassion.
Validate Your Emotions
Another way to increase self-compassion is to validate your emotions. We don't experience emotions randomly. They are there for a reason. Emotions are our body's way of communicating with us. When we beat ourselves up for having certain emotions, all we do is increase our emotional distress. Therefore, recognize that your emotions are important and reasonable. Try to listen to what your emotions are telling you and realize that it is okay to have those emotions.
Reduce Self-Destructive Behaviors
A lack of self-compassion can lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as deliberate self-harm, eating disordered behaviors (for example, binging and restricting), or substance use. These behaviors may be used as a form of self-punishment. In addition, although they may initially reduce feelings of distress, in the long-term they only reinforce a sense of shame, worthlessness, or helplessness. Therefore, it is important to take steps to reduce these behaviors. Strategies focused on impulse control may be particularly useful in this regard.
Practice Acts of Altruism
If you are feeling like there is nothing you can do to help yourself, then make the choice to help others. Acting with compassion towards others can improve your own self-compassion. In addition, there is some evidence that helping others can facilitate recovery from a traumatic event. Helping others (for example, volunteering) can improve your mood, provide a sense of accomplishment and agency, and bring about a sense of worth.
Recognize Your Accomplishments
Finally, recognize what you have accomplished. It is especially important to recognize accomplishments you have made despite the experience of PTSD symptoms. Make note of difficult tasks you have accomplished or challenging situations you have successfully navigated. Recognize accomplishments both big and small. We often brush aside small accomplishments; however, no accomplishment is too small when you have PTSD. Give yourself credit for showing strength and perseverance despite dealing with a PTSD diagnosis.
Self-compassion is very important in recovering from PTSD. However, it is also a very difficult thing to foster. Try out all of the strategies above and discover which combination of activities and behaviors work best for you. Progress may be slow, but even a small amount of self-compassion can have a tremendous impact on your mental and emotional health.
Don't put pressure on yourself, to have to be a 'Warrior Recovery Success Story'
This can be too great a burden to carry, and harm the healing process.
It can lead to more damage and shame.
It's okay to not be okay and to keep trying.
Healing is not a linear process.
It will have it's ups and downs, it's forward and backward steps.
Ignore the inner and outer critics.
Don't allow yourself to be compared to others.
Don't allow yourself to be shamed by being compared to recovery success stories.
Be gentle with yourself and know your journey is unique.
Have the self compassion you so truly deserve.
You've already been through enough.
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
5 Ways to Stop Beating Yourself Up
By Beverly D. Flaxington
Source: Psychology Today
Self-bullying arises from lack of compassion and kindness towards oneself. It is often engendered by painful childhood experiences that left a child with emotional scars. Children are more vulnerable and susceptible to negativity, so harsh criticism from parents, teachers, or peers can easily shatter their confidence, making them feel insecure or inadequate.
The desire to avoid others’ criticism in the future prods us to set criteria and standards for ourselves, and conditions us to think that we need to be perfect and better than others in order to be loved and appreciated.
Perfectionism in its positive form can help us be more successful, but the negative or self-critical form actually impedes our progress. Negative self-talk and worrying about what others would say can zap the energy needed to become a better you. The results of five psychological studies demonstrated a consistent pattern of negative relationship between self-criticism and goal progress (link is external): Participants reported significantly less progress towards goals when they ranked higher in self-criticism. A positive relationship between self-oriented perfectionism and goal progress was also established: When self-criticism was controlled, participants reported significantly more goal progress.
Nobody is perfect, and even the best and brightest make mistakes. Instead of dwelling on failures, learn from them and move on. Silence the inner bully that persistently goads you to hurt and neglect yourself. Following are 5 practices to help you become the best you can be:
1. Focus more on positive self-talk.
Make a conscious effort to stop putting yourself down. To do that, you need to be more aware of your negative self-talk, those jabbing comments that you make to yourself. Compliment yourself on the things you do well; acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small. Make a list at the end of each day of 5 things you did well, that made you happy, or that you are proud of doing. Write these down and then read them to yourself (out loud if possible) before you go to bed. This won’t eliminate all negative thinking, but if you can tip the scales toward the positive, it will help keep your energy up.
2. Practice kindness towards yourself.
Being kind to yourself is just as important as being kind to others. Here's a rule: Things that you would never say to your loved ones, either out of consideration or for the fear that you might offend them, should never be said to yourself, either. Imagine the amount of suffering it would cause others to hear these things from you, and realize that you are hurting yourself just as much. To quote from an old song by Helen Reddy:
“Would you take better care of yourself
Would you be kinder to yourself
Would you be more forgiving of your human imperfections
If you realized your best friend was yourself?”
3. Stop comparing yourself to others.
There is always going to be someone better than you at something. There will be those who are not as proficient as you, too. If you tend to compare yourself to someone who is the best at what they do, you may be playing a losing game. We play so many roles throughout our lives that it’s impossible to be better than the other 7 billion human beings at everything. Accept the fact that you are not perfect, and focus on being the best version of yourself.
4. Think of mistakes as learning opportunities.
Life is an unending process of self-improvement, and mistakes are unavoidable. It truly is a journey, and just like the longest road trip would involve some mistaken turns, so does your life. You have many great qualities and many areas for improvement. See those mistakes as opportunities: They show you what you need to work on to become the best you can be.
5. Be patient with yourself.
It takes time to correct the harmful habits that you have had for most of your life, especially deep-rooted ones like self-criticism. Considerable effort is required to change the way you think and to foster positive self-talk to get to the calmer, more reasonable you. Your life is a work in progress, so commit each day to doing something positive for you. Practice until being naturally good to yourself becomes more comfortable. Most important, don’t beat yourself up when you don’t do it as well as you “should."