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.
Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) teaches people to cultivate skills in self-compassion and compassion for others. 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. Compassion skills can be learned; belief is not required. We all stand to benefit from the practice of compassion toward self and others.