The end of a year can bring with it a lot of mixed emotions.
It can be a great time to reflect on the year’s accomplishments, cultivate gratitude and set new goals for the new year ahead.
However, I don’t know about you – but the end of the year can also be a time when self-criticism can take hold, as I think about all of the things I haven’t accomplished this year.
To avoid jumping on the self-criticism bandwagon, the end of the year is a great time to cultivate some mindful self-compassion.
Self-compassion is not self-indulgence or making excuses for bad behavior.
Self-compassion actually involves taking responsibility for our behavior – the good, the bad and the ugly – and accepting ourselves as human. Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through.
This means that we can be kind and gentle with ourselves. Instead of judging and criticizing ourselves for our various shortcomings, we can be understanding when confronted with personal failings.
Self-compassion also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, using mindful awareness. In this receptive state we can observe our thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or push them away.
In fact, research by self-compassion expert, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., has shown that people who accept their personal failures, are more likely to take steps to improve themselves.
In addition, this research shows that self compassion breeds resilience, those who are more self-compassionate are less self critical and suffer less from negative self-judgement.
Here is a 5 step self-compassion method to use if you are feeling stressed, disappointed or angry at yourself:
Notice: Take a moment to tune into your mind and really notice how you are talking to yourself. Then, tune into your body and notice how this self-talk is making you feel inside. Notice if it is causing you pain. Pinpoint where in your body you feel the pain and how it feels.
Acknowledge: Now, take a moment to acknowledge that you are feeling this pain. Acknowledge that this pain actually hurts. Then, tell yourself that it is ok to have pain, everyone feels pain from time to time.
Accept: Then accept the facts and stop fighting reality. Accept the pain and suffering just as it is, in the moment. Let go of the story you are telling yourself. Let go of trying to control everything. Have the willingness to be with the pain and not push it away.
Comfort: Then, think about how you would comfort a friend or family member who is feeling pain or stress. Comfort yourself with kind and understanding words just like you would a loved one.
Reframe: Reframe the self-critical observations in a friendly, positive way. If you’re having trouble thinking of what words to use, you might want to imagine what a very compassionate friend would say to you in this situation.
I am definitely not an expert in self-compassion. It is a work in progress, for sure.
However, the self-compassion method above has been very helpful to me, personally.
As with anything, there is some work that is involved in cultivating more self-compassion in our lives.
However, the real task is to simply be open to life just as it is. Acceptance isn’t about “giving up”. It is having the strength to “let go” of control and instead being open to other possibilities.
The important thing is that we start acting with more kindness to ourselves, and feelings of true warmth and caring will eventually follow.
We can start to look at our frustrations and disappointments with kindness and curiosity; as keys to new possibilities.
Try it out – as a new year’s gift to yourself; it just might be easier than you think.
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