Valentine’s Day is the day to express our love to the special people in our lives. It is often a day associated with gift giving, romantic gestures, words of kindness, etc. While it is meaningful to express love to the people in our lives that we hold dear to our hearts, we often forget someone who also needs love given to them: ourselves! No one ever said that Valentine’s Day must only be about expressing love to others. What would it be like if Valentine’s Day could be a day to express love to ourselves? Expressing love, acceptance, kindness, and understanding when confronted with pain and failure is known as self-compassion (Neff, 2003). Self-compassion is not only a great way to give yourself love, but also gain many other known benefits.
Why is Self-Compassion Important?
Being kind to ourselves, viewing our experience in connection with all of humanity rather than being isolated, and finding a balanced awareness in our thoughts and feelings are all pieces to having self-compassion (Neff, 2003). Self-compassion is associated with health promoting, self-regulating, and stress-reducing behaviors (Li et al., 2020). Previous research has shown that self-compassion reduces the likelihood of catastrophizing negative experiences, becoming anxious after various stressors, and avoiding difficult tasks out of the fear of failing. This suggests that self-compassion can act as a buffer against stress and aid in coping with it (Allen & Leary, 2010). Compassion for oneself has also shown to decrease the amount of anxiety due to social evaluation or judgement (Arch et al., 2013). Imagine not feeling so much stress, being so afraid to fail, or remaining so worried about what someone thinks of you. How would this change your life? How would your life look different?
Self-Compassion Exercises by Dr. Kristin Neff
Listed below are a few exercises used to practice self-compassion:
- Treat yourself like you would treat a friend. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- How do you typically respond to friends in need when they are feeling down? What do you do or say?
- How do you typically respond to yourself when you are feeling down? How is this different than how you respond to a friend?
- What would change if you responded to yourself the way you respond to a friend?
- Challenge your self-talk. Here are some steps you can take:
- Become aware of when you are being critical of yourself. What are some of the phrases that replay in your mind?
- Engage in reframing these critical phrases. Talk to yourself with warmth and kindness, like you would a friend. For example: “I know you procrastinated, but you are not alone in this. Many people procrastinate when they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed.”
More Exercises can be found at https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises
All in all, most of us are so busy finding or giving someone else love that we forget to give it to ourselves. Give yourself some compassion. Remember, we all have imperfections and we all make mistakes. That is what makes us human. Accepting ourselves for who we are might be difficult, but it is absolutely necessary in the process of loving ourselves. So, do yourself a favor on this Valentine’s Day and love you too.
Allen, A. B. & Leary, M. R. (2010). Self-compassion, stress, and coping. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 107-118. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2009.00246.x
Arch, J. J., Brown, K. W., Dean, D. J., Landy, L. N., Brown, K. D., & Laudenslager, M. L.
(2014). Self-compassion training modulates alpha-amylase, heart rate variability, and subjective responses to social evaluative threat in women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 42, 49–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.12.018
Li, Y., Deng, J., Lou, X., Wang, H., & Wang, Y. (2020). A daily diary study of the relationships
among daily self‐compassion, perceived stress and health‐promoting behaviours. International Journal of Psychology, 55(3), 364–372. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijop.12610
Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward
oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–101. doi: 10.1080/15298860390129863