If you want to cultivate resilience, self-compassion may be more important than self-esteem, says Kristin Neff, PhD, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas, Austin. While your self-esteem may hinge on beating the competition, self-compassion is about recognizing that you’re suffering just like everyone else, and that you too deserve kindness. “People see it as a weakness, but being warm and supportive to ourselves is one of the greatest strengths we have,” says Neff. “Studies show that people with self-compassion cope better when they’re going through life’s challenges—including divorce, HIV, or cancer.” A few of Neff’s suggestions for sympathetic self-talk:
Put your hand on your heart
“As humans, we respond to warmth and physical touch, and sometimes the body responds before the mind does,” says Neff. “A loving gesture can calm you enough to talk yourself through a bad moment.”
Referring to yourself in the second person—for instance, “You’re allowed to be stressed, but you’re going to be okay”—helps you step outside the situation, Neff says.
Try a nickname
“Call yourself by a term of endearment, like honey. Yes, it feels weird at first. But it also evokes the sense that you’re being cared for by a loving friend,” says Neff. And honey, nobody needs to know but you.