When you were growing up:

  • Did you have anyone guide you through difficult situations and the emotions they cause?
  • Did you feel like there was space for you to feel upset, angry, or sad?
  • Did you feel “seen,” validated, and encouraged to express yourself?

If not, you most likely learned how to parent yourself in times of trouble. If you struggle with self-compassion, there’s a good chance you made unfair assumptions about yourself and what you need when you’re in emotional pain.

Judgment vs. Self-Compassion

On your path to self-awareness as a young person, you noticed things about yourself that received negative feedback from the people you admired. Because you longed for total acceptance, you learned to judge these parts of your personality. Not feeling entirely at home with yourself made it easy to assume something was wrong with you.

This negative feedback could have been anything from the way you talk, the way you look, or even the way you feel.

Judgment Can Lead to Self-Rejection

We all desire to belong, longing to feel accepted unconditionally. However, when we sense that our home life will not grant this acceptance to us, it’s not uncommon to turn against ourselves for having these needs in the first place. This false belief—conscious or unconscious—can create a lifelong journey of self-rejection.

Self-Love and Self-Compassion

This explanation may sound overly simplistic, but I invite you to consider this: all you ever wanted was to feel accepted. At any moment of the day, this realization is where your psychology, drives, and impulses are leading you.

The innocent and nearly universal mistake was thinking the world had the power to allow or deny this from you. There is no love more crucial for your well-being than your own.

Not understanding the importance of self-love, you trusted more in the judgments of others. Rather than depending on your internal guidance, you outsourced your validation.

Whenever it seemed people and situations were telling you were anything but good, you retaliated, trying to protect what you thought was a threat.

You were unaware of your unassailable goodness, so you acted from a place of self-doubt. This inspired behaviors that, in turn, sparked further self-doubt. It’s a terrible cycle.

Starting Your Journey Toward Self-Compassion

The truth is that only self-compassion, not internal criticism, can free us. The trick to abstaining from harmful behaviors is not through further self-rejection, especially when self-rejection was the genesis of those self-sabotaging behaviors in the first place.

The beginning of your journey towards self-compassion will be in communicating with this younger part of you; to be the reassuring and validating parent you needed while growing up.

Observe Your Thoughts and Feelings

As a result, when you’re feeling down, rather than tell yourself that you’re wrong for feeling that way, have the patient curiosity of a devoted caretaker.

When you suffer, you’ll notice that the most significant cause of pain is how you feel about yourself during the process.

Remind Yourself of Your Goodness

Reminding yourself of your innate goodness is the greatest gift you can offer yourself in tough times. The quality of your life will become fundamentally different when you learn to care for yourself during challenging moments.

Honor What You’re Feeling

You can learn to honor what you’re feeling with compassion for yourself. You’ll know that no thought or feeling in the world could warrant the denial of the love that’s rightfully yours.

Without resistance, these emotions no longer become stuck and rot in your system. They no longer become so explosive that you have no choice but to act from them.

Negative Emotions

Negative emotions in themselves are not suffering. Instead, we suffer when we internally resist our experiences and insist they shouldn’t be happening.

Honor Who You’re—Just as You Are

Please remember that you can only hold yourself with compassion now. If you struggle with self-compassion, you most likely have a perfectionistic idea of how you’re supposed to be loved. Self-compassion means reminding yourself that you deserve to be loved as you’re.

Self-Compassion Mantra

At any moment, you can pause, relax your efforts, and listen to yourself from a place of compassion, which is to say, without judgment.

“I see you; I hear you,” is a wonderful mantra to practice.

There’s no one else you need to be. Just in being alive, you’re enough. You were born with the right to be loved; you don’t need to earn it. The greatest paradox of being human is that you always had the love you’ve sought.

Your Internal Compass in Self-Compassion

Within the word “self-compassion,” you’ll find the word “compass.” I cannot think of a better guide than compassion to direct you back home to yourself.

Justin Fink

Justin Fink is a licensed professional counselor (LPC). He is experienced with youth guidance, group therapy, particularly men’s groups, eating disorder recovery, and more. He holds a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Roosevelt University. He is also a Reiki Master Teacher (RMT).