There are many outcomes to practicing self-compassion that we can all reap the benefits from including decreased feelings of anxiety and depression. However, I have specifically found that starting a self-compassion practice is a vital part of the OCD treatment process. Practicing self-compassion can help people with OCD better manage their feelings of guilt and shame that often come with having the disorder.
Self-compassion is often misunderstood as being “too positive” and even sometimes viewed as “weak”. People often express to me that they fear losing motivation and letting themselves “off the hook” if they are too compassionate to themselves. If you were raised in a family or culture where the message was often touted to “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” or that “expressing feelings is weakness”, it’s not a surprise that practicing self-compassion may feel, well,…. too compassionate. The lack of familiarity with self-compassion may produce some temporary uncomfortable feelings when you begin to practice; However, many people find that they soon feel a significant improvement in their mood and anxiety levels.
A common concern for many is that practicing self-compassion will let them “off the hook”. When reflecting on whether or not self-compassion will produce a lack of motivation or any other negative outcome, I often ask people whether they find the validation and compassion they receive from good friends as demotivating. When a friend validates your feelings and gives you compassion, do you feel “lazy” and “unmotivated” as a result or do you feel understood and possibly even more confident in yourself? If other peoples compassion feels helpful to us, what makes us think that self-compassion would be any different?
So what are some ways to start a self-compassion practice? Here are some reflective questions and exercise to try out to get started:
- If you embrace self-compassion what is your biggest fear? How likely is it that this would actually occur?
- Write down one perceived flaw you have of yourself. Then pretend your best friend confided in you that this same flaw was their biggest weakness. Try writing down how you would respond to them in a compassionate, loving way. Once you are done, read it again and take in the words you wrote to your friend. Then reflect on how it feels to say those words to yourself.
- OCD has been trying to protect you from ongoing emotional suffering. Write a letter to your OCD from a compassionate lens recognizing that it’s been trying to keep you safe, despite it being unnecessary and unhelpful.
- How can you speak to yourself compassionately when you are experiencing intense intrusive thoughts and feelings? Write down some of your most validating and compassionate thoughts and keep them on hand for when you need them most.
If you are struggling with OCD and you feel you need some extra help in practicing self-compassion, reach out to inquire about OCD treatment.