Most of us struggle with self-criticism and shame to some degree. All too often, we chalk this up to “low self-esteem” — as though self-esteem could be boosted by more affirmations or by just letting things go. The truth is, self-criticism and shame can’t simply be turned off. Haven’t we all tried? Compassion practices offer concrete ways to respond to painful thoughts and feelings in ways that keep them from dominating your life.
“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched,
you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution,
that this heart is huge, vast and limitless. You begin to discover how
much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
— Pema Chodron
Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) teaches people to cultivate skills in compassion and self-compassion. These skills help regulate mood and lead to feelings of safety, self-acceptance, and loving-kindness. When we’re deep in self-criticism or shame it can be hard to imagine feeling different or treating ourselves with kindness – it may even seem undeserved or self-indulgent. That said, research shows that compassion practices make us less likely to suffer from depression and other mental health issues. And compassion skills can be learned. Belief is not required. We all stand to benefit from the practice of compassion toward self and others.