The Importance of Self-Compassion for Teens

Self-Compassion, Teenagers, Mental Health, Depression, Anxiety
The Importance of Self-Compassion for Teens
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Eileen Beltzner

Eileen Beltzner

Eileen is a Child and Youth Counsellor, a Registered Social Worker, a Psychotherapist & a Certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher offering MSC training to both adults, teens and healthcare communities.

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A local physician referred a 14-year old named Ali* to me for challenges. She was suffering with depression and anxiety. At the time I was a practicing Child & Family Therapist with recent certification in Mindful Self-Compassion.

During our sessions Ali did the following:

  • Imagined a friend who had messed up at school. Her friend really worried about getting into trouble with her parents. Ali said she would have no problem, because this happened to many of her friends. They often supported her as well.
  • Took out a piece of paper and wrote down the exact words she might say to these friends. The words flowed onto the paper and Ali’s facial expression was kind and caring. When she finished writing, she turned the paper over.
  • Wrote down what she would say to herself in the same situation. As she wrote, she pressed down so hard on the paper; it was audible. It didn’t take as long to write. The words were familiar; like a well rehearsed script.

What she said to her friends:

“Everyone screws up,” she read, “You’re not alone. I will study with you if you think that might help. And I will always be there for you, no matter what.” As she spoke, the tone of her voice was gentle and comforting.

What she said to herself:

“You are such an IDIOT! You are so, so, so, so, stupid! You’re never going to amount to anything. You are such a big looooooser!”The tone of her voice was harsh and her face was contorted into a an expression I only see when self-loathing shows up.

Mindful Self-Compassion, Teenagers, Mental, Low Self-Esteem, Depression, anxiety

Image Credit: AbundanceTapestry.com

The Result

It changed Ali’s perspective.

She clearly saw how she spoke to herself when she was going through a hard time, compared to how she spoke to a friend.

Ali had no idea the harsh words she said to herself when she messed up. Those words were familiar. It’s no wonder she felt so low and anxious.

I assured Ali, she was not alone. Like so many young people and adults, she learned that the best way to motivate herself required the use of harsh inner criticism; though most would never treat a friend the same way.

Ali’s brutal inner critic or inner critical voice was well-meaning. It tried its very best to help her succeed. By North American bench marks, she was succeeding but at a serious cost to her well-being.

If you’re thinking as you read this that the adults in her life abused her, you’d be wrong. You see, the positive external support from parents, teachers or other important people in her life couldn’t compete with her constant inner critical voice.

As it relates to motivation, the impact of harsh self criticism creates anxiety and low mood, according to research.

I became a Certified Mindful Self-Compassion teacher to help teenagers like Ali. From my training, she learned ways to motivate herself with kindness using her compassionate inner voice.

As a result, things changed quickly. Ali’s mood and life became a little easier everyday.

What Ali learning during our one-to-one sessions, now reaches many other teens thanks to researcher Karen Bluth Ph.D. and UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness Youth & Family Programs Director, Lorraine M. Hobbs.

My Training

In 2017, I took their training

Through developmentally appropriate activities and carefully crafted practices and exercises, teens learn how to navigate the emotional ups-and-downs of life with greater ease. They learn skills that can be used for a lifetime in a group format.

Adolescence is a time of change, growth and self-discovery. It is also a time many adults would never want to repeat. Recalling your adolescence is part of the training to become a qualified MSC Teen (MSC-T) teacher.

At first I was doubtful that might be possible for me; however, I found out it wasn’t hard to reconnect with my adolescent self. That part of me was very much alive inside me and still hurt due to difficult teenage experiences.

The course would have made my teen years much less painful with a lot less suffering. That is why I am so passionate mindfulness training must be combined with explicit self-compassion training too.

Read more about teens and self-compassion

MFY Featured in the NY Times

How to Help Teens Become More Self Compassionate

Benefits of Self-Compassion: When Teens Are Too Hard On Themselves

Why Teens, More Than Ever, Need To Learn To Be Kind – To Themselves

How We Can Keep Teens From Killing Themselves

Can Self-Compassion Improve Well-Being In Teens?

The Power of Self-compassion Podcast, With Karen Bluth

*Ali is a composite of a number of young people I have had similar experiences with in my work as a Child & Family Therapist.



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