It’s common to overhear grumbles that “kids have it too easy these days.” But inside every disgruntled older person lives a younger version of themself who probably wishes they were shown similar tenderness when they were younger. For anyone who ever felt ignored or unsafe as a child — or as an adult for that matter — it’s important to show yourself compassion to remedy previous trauma and to protect your inner peace.
But the practice of self-compassion is easier said than done, and what exactly it looks like can differ from person to person. It can also be “quite hard for some people, especially childhood abuse survivors who often feel as if they deserved, on some level, the mistreatment they receive,” said Dedalus Hyde, a psychologist and founder of the Bay Area Trauma Center. Hyde suggested that people who are grappling with the idea of self-compassion try viewing it as “being on your own side,” a phrase he said is a client of his coin.
“Neurologically, it’s important to note that the area of the brain that generates the ability to be self-compassionate is also responsible for emotional regulation,” Hyde said. “Research has demonstrated that the more you can be on your own side, the better you can regulate your emotions and the easier life will be.”
Therefore, regardless of what self-compassion looks like to you, we can all benefit from incorporating it into our day-to-day lives. Here are a few suggestions on how to do so:
- Check-in with yourself: We are the only person who knows exactly what we’re thinking, but sometimes our brains can use a little help figuring out exactly what we’re feeling. Sometimes taking a moment to ask yourself, “Hey, self, how are you feeling?” — and giving yourself time and space to honestly respond — can lead to a real answer. Allowing yourself to discover that emotion and approach it without judgment is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself, and fortunately, nobody ever needs to know it but you. Next time you snap at someone or notice your heart beating a little faster, check in with yourself and treat the response with care.
- Think About Younger You: Whenever a negative thought about yourself comes creeping into your mind, ask yourself, “Would I say that to younger me?” — when you were just a kid. Reflect on your days of delightful innocence when you were young and impressionable. When a soft smile from someone else felt like all the praise in the world or when one snide remark was soul-crushing. That sincerity is something that should be cherished, and if it wasn’t during your childhood, I am so sorry. But perhaps taking the time to reassure the little you that will always exist inside that they are OK could help heal any moments where that compassion was missing in the past. A trend on TikTok a few weeks ago inspired this tip. It said to find an old photo of yourself, preferably one where you look extra cute, and keep it somewhere you’ll often see, like a desk or a mirror. Any time you’re feeling frustrated or like you’re about to spew some negativity toward yourself, stop and look at little you. Would you want them to hear that? If you wouldn’t say it to 5-year-old you, why would you say it to yourself now?
- Forgive yourself: It sometimes feels like not a day goes by where I don’t say or do something extraordinarily stupid. I’ve been trying to change my mindset recently and not beat myself up about it. Whether you’ve missed a deadline, said something dumb to a co-worker or made an embarrassing move in front of your classmates, it’s easy to hurl insults at yourself. You might even start to feed into the idea that you’re a horrible human for making a mistake. We have an unfortunate tendency to be our biggest bullies, but the greatest thing about the bully in your head is that it only exists in your head. Odds are the people you interact with in your day-to-day life aren’t belittling you for every error you make, so why should you do it to yourself? It’s important to remind yourself that, at the end of the day, you are human, and humans are allowed to make mistakes.
- Treat Yourself: It’s important to make yourself feel special, especially on rough days. Splurging on a tasty meal or making a trip to the salon when you’re feeling low can sometimes be just the pick-me-up you need to help you power through.
So whether you incorporate these tips into your life or find your own way of practicing self-compassion, take the time to be kind to yourself. You deserve it.
This story was produced by Richmond Pulse and is part of a collaborative project “You’re Not Alone” that includes content from young journalists from Boyle Heights Beat, Coachella Unincorporated, The kNOw, Richmond Pulse, Voices of Monterey Bay, We’Ced and YR Media.