In the complex web of our thoughts and emotions, self-compassion often takes a back seat to self-sacrifice. Many of us have internalized narratives that glorify self-sacrifice and downplay self-compassion. We believe that constantly putting others’ needs before our own is virtuous and that caring for ourselves is selfish. However, it’s time to challenge these harmful narratives and understand the importance of self-compassion in our lives.
The Myth of Self-Sacrifice
From a young age, we are bombarded with stories and societal expectations that glorify self-sacrifice. We’re taught that being selfless and putting others’ needs before our own is the epitome of virtue. While helping others and being empathetic are indeed commendable, the myth of self-sacrifice often pushes us to the brink of exhaustion and burnout. It can lead to feelings of resentment, stress, and an overall decline in mental and physical health.
The Harm in Self-Sacrificing Narratives
Burnout: When we constantly prioritize the needs and desires of others over our own, we risk burning out. It’s like pouring from an empty cup. Burnout can have serious consequences for our physical and mental well-being, affecting our overall quality of life (Vatcher, 2023).
Low Self-Esteem: Constantly sacrificing our own needs and desires can erode our self-esteem. Over time, we may feel unworthy or undeserving of care and attention. This can negatively impact our self-image and self-worth (Cikanavicius, 2018).
Resentment: Suppressing our own needs can lead to feelings of resentment toward those we are sacrificing for. This resentment can strain relationships and hinder our ability to genuinely help others (Schreiner, 2018).
Reduced Empathy: Paradoxically, self-sacrificing narratives can reduce our capacity for true empathy. When we neglect our own well-being, we may become emotionally drained and less able to offer genuine support to others.
“Love is not self-sacrifice, but the most profound assertion of your own needs and values.”
- Ayn Rand
The Power of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is the antidote to the self-sacrificing narrative. It is not about neglecting others but about recognizing and addressing our own needs and feelings while still extending kindness and support to those around us. Here’s why self-compassion is so important:
Improved Well-Being: Self-compassion promotes better mental and emotional health. It helps reduce anxiety, depression, and stress while increasing resilience and emotional well-being (Zessin et al., 2015).
Enhanced Relationships: When we are kind and compassionate to ourselves, we can be more genuinely empathetic and supportive toward others. This strengthens our connections and relationships.
Increased Productivity: Taking care of ourselves allows us to be more productive and effective in our endeavors. We have more energy, focus, and creativity to contribute to the world (Neff, n.d.)
Greater Resilience: Self-compassion builds resilience, helping us bounce back from setbacks and challenges. It encourages a positive self-image and fosters self-confidence.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
- Carl Jung
Self-Awareness: Recognize when you are prioritizing the needs of others to the detriment of your own well-being. Be aware of the harmful narratives you’ve internalized.
Self-Kindness: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you offer to others. Practice self-compassion through positive self-talk and self-care.
Set Boundaries: It’s important to set and maintain healthy boundaries (see previous blog). This involves saying “no” when necessary and not overextending yourself.
Seek Support: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.
The importance of self-compassion cannot be overstated. It’s time to challenge the harmful self-sacrificing narratives that have been ingrained in our minds and embrace the power of self-compassion. When we care for ourselves, we can better care for others and lead more fulfilling, healthier lives. Remember, it’s not selfish to prioritize your well-being; it’s a necessary and virtuous act of self-compassion.
"In today’s world self-compassion is a portal for connection back to our source. Our birthright is to be here and to join into the human journey of self-determination and the reclaiming of our authentic selves. Historically, we have always faced difficult times and suffered. Today we are still suffering outside, and within ourselves. Through the messiness of being human, -we can hold self-compassion for our own self-determined journey to find wholeness. Self-compassion allows us to create safe spaces within. It encourages us to develop capacity to initiate self-love and self-respect. Start small- daily moments of compassion for self- water your internal garden of messiness and find the beauty of your own self- and do so within the garden of humanity as we all seek to find meaning and worth."
- Dr. Miller
Cikanavicius, D. (2018, April 16). 5 Ways You Were Taught Self-Erasure – and Why Its Wrong. PsychCentral Weblog. https://psychcentral.com/blog/psychology-self/2018/04/learned-self-erasure
Neff, K. (n.d.). The Motivational Power of Self-Compassion. SELF-COMPASSION WEBLOG. https://self-compassion.org/the-motivational-power-of-self-compassion/
Schreiner, M. (2018, September 20). Self-Sacrifice and Resentment. Evolution counseling Weblog. https://evolutioncounseling.com/self-sacrifice-and-resentment/
Vatcher, A. (2023, June 06). You Cannot Pour from an Empty Cup. The Calgary Therapy Institute Weblog. https://www.calgarytherapyinstitute.com/post/you-cannot-pour-from-an-empty-cup
Zessin, U., Dickhuser, O., & Garbade, S. (2015). The Relationship Between Self-Compassion and Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. https://doi.org/10.1111//aphw.12051