Self-compassion means giving yourself the same care, love, and kindness you would give to a loved one. Dr. Kristin Neff, pioneering self-compassion researcher argues that “self-compassion is a more effective motivator than self-criticism because its driving force is love, not fear.” Research shows that self-compassion has many benefits to our mental health and that approving yourself instead of criticizing can be life-changing.
Challenges of Adolescence and Self-Compassion
Being a teenager has never been easy. Adolescence is a period of growth and change. Teenagers naturally go through a phase of self-discovery and this often causes teen rebellion and confusion. For many teenagers, challenges of adolescence lead to disconnection, isolation, anxiety, and depression.
Thus, teaching teenagers self-compassion is vital in helping them understand themselves, the world around them, and their place in that world.
The Benefits of Nurturing Self-Compassion in Teens
Self-dissatisfaction and self-criticism are endemic in adolescence. While often considered as common teenage angsts, self-dissatisfaction and self-criticism in adolescence may affect teenager’s mental health lead to self-destructive outcomes.
Teaching teenagers how to treat themselves with self-acceptance and self-care has many benefits. Self-compassion teaches teens to understand themselves better, to see things from a different perspective, and avoid being judgmental and unforgiving to themselves.
Furthermore, self-compassion can lift a teenager’s mood and improve optimism. It may help teens become more attuned to their emotions and strengthen their emotional control. Self-kindness will make an adolescent more sensitive to other people’s emotional reactions as well, and help them understand how to their emotions affect other people. This awareness leads to better relationships with self and others.
Research showed that self-compassion can alleviate stress and anxiety by helping a person silence their inner critic and self-destructive thoughts. In addition, self-compassion helps teens understand that they are not alone in their suffering. Self-kindness promotes a sense of common humanity – a deep knowledge that suffering is not specific to one individual and that being humans, we are vulnerable, flawed, and mortal.
One program that is available focusing just on self compassion for teens is Making Friends with Yourself (MFY) created by Karen Bluth, Ph.D., and Lorraine Hobbs, M.A., represents an effort to promote the skill of self-compassion in teens and strengthen them to handle day-to-day challenges more effectively.