The first time I heard the term, self-compassion, I was just a few weeks into my recovery. The therapist I was seeing while in treatment brought it up during one of our sessions. She noticed that I was carrying around a lot of guilt because of my addiction. Our society attaches great importance on being successful, but most of the time, it is done at the price of our self-esteem. If I did manage to be kind to myself, I would end up feeling as though others would see me as complacent, arrogant, or selfish. It’s a universal problem, whether you are an addict or not, but many of us find our way to addiction because of it. In my case, I wanted to drown out that nasty, little voice in my head that was admonishing me. Kristen Neff, PhD, author of the book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, says that there are three components to self-compassion:
- Self-Kindness – When you are struggling, be gentle with yourself, just as you would with a loved one.
- Common Humanity – Realize you are not alone with your problems. Just about everyone has faced rejection, failure, mistakes, and loss. There is nothing wrong with you!
- Mindfulness – Take life as it comes, without judgement, and feel free to express your feelings.
1. Do Not Avoid Your Feelings As an addict, I learned how suppress my feelings, because I didn’t want to look at myself in the proverbial mirror. I was convinced there was something wrong with my true self, and I was overwhelmed by it. This self-loathing became such a part of me that I had to work at loving myself again. My therapist had me do an exercise that really helped. It involved making two lists. One was for all the positive things about myself, and the other was for areas that I felt I needed to work on. My first list was completely unbalanced; I had much more in the negative column than I did in the positive one. Over time, however, I balanced that list by looking at myself through the eyes of my therapist. This is an exercise you can also do with a trusted friend or loved one if you are not seeing a therapist. 2. Use It as a Recovery Tool Being kind and loving to myself gave me more control over my cravings and emotions and helped me to deal with myself during recovery. From day one of my sobriety, I congratulated myself at the end of each day for staying sober. Mindfulness comes into play here, taking each day as it comes, without judging myself for real or imagined failures, but focusing on what I had done well. 3. Stop Running The urge to escape the unpleasant aspects of life is what actually drives our addictive behavior. As I learned to cut myself some slack, the courage to face my life was born. And by facing life, I soon realized that I really can handle the disappointments that come my way. 4. Face the Pain By looking directly at my problems and hurt feelings, I learned to soothe myself, and I no longer needed to drown my sorrows. 5. Appreciate Others Challenges Loving yourself makes it easy to be of help to others. And when you step outside of yourself and focus on someone else, you will be proud of the support you gave them. These practices will help bolster your self-esteem, and over time, self-compassion will come naturally. In the process, you will begin to discover just how amazing you really are. The Oceanfront Recovery Addiction Treatment Program can help start the process of recovery from substance abuse addiction or alcoholism. Our experienced clinicians focus on the underlying causes with a modern and effective recovery program in a beachfront environment. Contact us at Oceanfront Recovery today for a confidential assessment.