Saying those three words to family members, spouses and friends always seems to be special. But how many times have you said "I love you” to yourself?
For many of us...never.
Kristin Neff, a professor of Psychology at University of Texas at Austin, says self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards.
“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent,” said Dr. Neff, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin. “They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”
Imagine your reaction to your son or daughter who struggles with a school subject. Most parents would offer support, find a tutor or work with them one on one. But when adults find themselves feeling something similar such as struggling at work, they fall into patterns of self criticism resulting in less motivation.
In a NY Times interview, Dr. Neff stated, “Self-compassion is really conducive to motivation,” Dr. Neff said. “The reason you don’t let your children eat five big tubs of ice cream is because you care about them. With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”
It’s not about tough love.
Historically, ancient texts from various religions all hold belief in the power of affirmations (via prayer), but do affirmations really work?
According to research, people who practice self compassion feel more joy, gratitude and optimism than those who are critical of themselves.
If you need more reasons to love yourself, (hopefully you do not!), here are some ways embracing yourself can change your life:
- Attract more love. We all have heard of the law of attraction- you attract what you emanate.
The Dalai Lama says ancient teachings site, “If you do not love yourself, you cannot love others.” And if you can’t love others, others cannot love you right back. It’s a vicious cycle that never needs to start by just practicing self compassion.
- It encourages you to stay healthy. Research published in the journal Health Psychology found that building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down can lead to better health decisions. So give yourself a pat on the back after those push ups and continue to motivate yourself.
- It can curb depression. Studies suggest that those who have higher self-compassion are less at risk for developing depression or even anxiety, (which plagues 40% of the U.S population).
- Research suggests that self-compassion can reduce the stress that actually causes us to procrastinate because it helps us recognize the downside of the habit without putting us in a negative thought spiral. Therefore we can work on the task at hand.
So how do we start talking to ourselves in this way? Try ancient forms of meditation or even just saying affirmations and begin to fall in love...with yourself.