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  • Writer's pictureGladys Agwai


In your quest for self-understanding, two powerful forces guide you: self-compassion and self-esteem. While self-compassion and self-esteem may seem similar, they differ in crucial ways. Self-esteem is often contingent on external factors, such as achievement, appearance, or social recognition. It involves evaluating yourself based on perceived strengths and accomplishments, leading to a fragile sense of your worth and value as a human being. In contrast, self-compassion does not depend on success or comparisons with others.

It involves cultivating and embracing a gentle and supportive attitude towards yourself during times of failure or hardship. You embrace an internal source of validation and worthiness acknowledging your imperfections with kindness. Self-esteem, historically deemed vital for mental health, has been both celebrated and criticised. Its roots lie in the belief that a positive self-image leads to happiness and success. However, as discussed, it often hinges on external achievements and individual accomplishments leaving you too fragile, dependent, and vulnerable to setbacks and criticism. Some believe self-compassion leads to complacency. It does not! It enables you to bounce back from setbacks and failures more quickly.

Understanding the dynamic interplay between self-compassion and self-esteem is integral to achieving balance and emotional well-being. Rather than relying solely on self-esteem, self-compassion offers an alternative path to your well-being. It encourages you to treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance during moments of failure, imperfection, or suffering. Instead of self-criticism, self compassion advocates for a non-judgmental approach, like how you would comfort and support a friend in need. Research highlights that the benefits of embracing self compassion nurtures emotional resilience, reduces anxiety, and fosters greater psychological well-being. By acknowledging your struggles with kindness and self care, you create a nurturing environment for growth, learning, and personal development.

Do not pit self-compassion against self-esteem because the integration of the two are more fruitful. Self-compassion lays the foundation for healthy self-esteem by fostering a sense of inner acceptance and worthiness. When you approach yourself with kindness and self-care, you build authentic self-esteem that is less prone to external fluctuations and more resilient in the face of challenges.

Mindfulness practices are instrumental in cultivating both self-compassion and self esteem. Be conscious of what is happening within and around you. You can then notice and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment, nurturing self compassion. Mindfulness teaches you to gently acknowledge your insecurities and negative self-judgments, allowing you to transform your inner dialogue into one that is kinder and more supportive positively influencing your self-esteem. Some regular practices you can include are a) journaling to process feelings, b) engaging in self-care activities, and c) setting boundaries to maintain your well-being. Additionally, therapy or counseling can provide structured guidance in this journey.

Here are some exercises that will help cultivate self-compassion:

• Self-Compassionate Letter: Write a letter to yourself, expressing kindness, understanding, and support as you would to a close friend in need. Emphasize that it is normal to face difficulties and make mistakes. Read the letter whenever you need a reminder of self-compassion and the gentle encouragement it provides.

• Mindful Self-Compassion: Practice mindfulness (being present) by bringing awareness to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment.

As difficult feelings arise, acknowledge them with kindness and remind yourself that suffering is a part of the human experience. This exercise helps cultivate an attitude of acceptance and understanding towards yourself.

• Self-Compassionate Affirmations: Create positive affirmations that emphasize self kindness, acceptance, and resilience. Repeat these affirmations regularly, both silently and aloud, to reinforce self-compassionate beliefs and counteract self-criticisms.

The balance between self-compassion and self-esteem is like mastering the art of inner navigation. By understanding and applying the concepts of self-kindness and self-love, you can create a compassionate inner world that fosters a robust and resilient sense of who you are. As you continue to explore the vastness and importance of your inner being, you will realize that your true power lies in the harmony between accepting yourself as you are and recognizing your inherent worth. You will be better equipped for your life's journey, prepared to face adversities with grace, and move forward with confidence and self-assuredness.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”-Buddha.

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