Even the most confident and happy people have moments where they think, “I’m such a failure.” It’s a part of being human. However, if your child is having these kinds of negative thoughts frequently or is letting these feelings get in the way of living a healthy and happy life, it may be time to do something about it.
Luckily, there are many ways to increase your child’s sense of self-worth. It probably won’t be easy, but it can certainly be done.
One of the ways is practicing SELF-COMPASSION.
As Dalai Lama says:
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”.
There are a lot of books and resources about self-compassion on the Internet and in bookstores (see below). I suggest we start from ourselves, practice for a while, and then introduce self-compassion to our children, after simplifying the language and exercises. The more we practice, the quicker we will see the results!
Here you will find a few exercises you can start from:
Perhaps the single best way to provoke compassion for yourself is through this exercise: treating yourself like a good friend.
It’s easy to give our friends love, compassion, and understanding, even when they fail or make a mistake. It can be much harder to extend that same understanding and compassion to ourselves when we make a mistake.
Follow these instructions from self-compassion expert Dr. Kristin Neff to start showing yourself more compassion:
An exercise like this can be a first step towards treating yourself like a good friend – not just for a quick, 10-minute exercise, but for life.
Another good exercise to help you improve your understanding and love for yourself is the Self-Compassion Break. It will only take a few minutes, but it can make a big difference.
To begin, bring to mind a situation in your life that is causing you stress or pain. Think about this situation and how it makes you feel, both emotionally and physically.
When you have this situation in mind and get in touch with the feelings associated with it, say the following things to yourself:
Great relief can come from simply affirming that you are experiencing suffering, a difficult but natural part of life, and stating your intention to be kind, patient, or accepting of yourself.
This three-part exercise can be especially helpful for those who like to write or are particularly adept at expressing themselves via the written word. However, even if you’re not a proficient writer, this exercise is a great opportunity to practice some self-compassion.
Follow the instructions below to try your hand at self-compassion through writing.
First, think about the imperfections that make you feel inadequate – everyone has at least a few things they don’t like about themselves or makes them feel “not good enough.”
Consider these things that you feel insecure about. If there is one issue that is particularly salient for you in the moment, focus on this insecurity.
Take note of how you feel when you think about it. Notice the emotions that come up and let yourself experience them. We are so often desperate to avoid feeling anything negative, but negative feelings are an inherent part of life. Additionally, negative feelings can often provoke positive outcomes, like self-compassion.
Simply feel the emotions that thinking about your insecurity dredges up, then write about them.
Once you have written about these emotions, you can move on to the second part of this exercise: writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of an unconditionally loving imaginary friend.
Similar to the first exercise (How Would You Treat a Friend?), this exercise will call upon your tendency to show compassion and understanding to your friends and encourage you to apply it to yourself as well.
Imagine a friend that is unconditionally loving, kind, compassionate, and accepting. Next, imagine they have all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses, including the feelings of inadequacy you just wrote about.
Think about how this friend feels about you: they love you, accept you, and act kindly towards you. Even when you make a mistake or do something hurtful, this friend is quick to forgive and understanding.
Not only is this friend completely understanding and compassionate, but he or she knows all about your life. They know how you got to where you are, they know about all the millions of little choices that you made along the way, and they understand that several factors have contributed to the person you are today.
Write a letter from the perspective of this imaginary, unconditionally loving friend. Focus the letter on the inadequacies you wrote about in part one. Think about what this all-compassionate friend would say to you.
Would they tell you that you must be perfect, and any weakness is unacceptable? Or would this friend tell you that he or she understands why you feel that way, but that we are all human and that we are all imperfect?
Would they berate you for your feelings of insecurity or inadequacy? Or would they encourage you to accept yourself as you are, and remind you of your strengths?
Write this letter with the friend’s feelings for you in mind; make sure that their love, compassion, and kindness are at the forefront of their message to you.
Once you finish the letter, put it down and walk away for a while. Give yourself some space from the letter.
When you come back, read it again – but read it with the intention to really let the words sink in. Don’t read it as a note that you wrote a few minutes or hours ago; read it as if it is really from this unconditionally loving friend.
Open yourself up to their compassion and let yourself experience it, soothing and comforting you. Allow their compassion to sink into you and become your own compassion for yourself.
Books I recommend:
School psychologist, CBT psychotherapist