October 10, 2023
Writer: Kevin Miko Buac
Graphics: Jia Moral
Moderator: Eula Labordo
In the turbulent landscape of the modern world, finding refuge and solace has become all the more important. After all, when storms come, the need arises for us to seek shelter in the form of our homes. Such is the case when the adversities of life arise. We are our own shelters, the builders of our own refuge, our own safe space. For some, safe spaces are usually associated with physical places that offer comfort and protection. However, the notion of being your own safe space goes beyond physical locations and spaces. It is also about building an internal refuge where you can find emotional stability and self-acceptance; built on the cornerstones of self-compassion, self-validation, and positive self-dialogue.
You are your own friend
Self-compassion simply means treating oneself with the same kindness, understanding, and care that one would offer to a dear friend at times of adversity and suffering (1). This idea of self-compassion is built on concepts of self-kindness, recognizing common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness means to treat oneself with care and warmth akin to one would to a friend. Recognizing common humanity means that struggles and challenges are universal human experiences, that everyone experiences in varying degrees. Lastly, mindfulness in self-compassion entails approaching one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences with a non-judgmental and balanced perspective (1). Research has shown that self-compassion contributes to greater overall psychological well-being, increased self-esteem, and improved emotional resilience; while also helping individuals cope with setbacks productively, thus reducing the likelihood of resorting to self-criticism (2,3). Building self-compassion is akin to building muscles and this involves practice in daily life. Examples include journaling wherein one can write nurturing and understanding messages to themselves and mindfulness meditation where one can become more aware of their thoughts and emotions. Incorporating these techniques with practice can lead to profound transformations in emotional resilience, enabling individuals to navigate life’s challenges with greater self-acceptance.
To be imperfect is to be human
Embracing imperfection as an inherent part of being human is the heart of self-compassion, for the pursuit of perfection can be unrealistic which often leads to self-criticism and anxiety (2). Everyone makes mistakes and has their limitations and self-worth does not need to hinge on pursuing perfection. What we can do is pursue a more compassionate and accepting view of oneself; thus the need for self-validation. Relying on external validation for self-worth can be precarious, as it places it in the hands of others. Instead, self-validation encourages people to acknowledge and affirm their feelings, experiences, and achievements paving the way to a more resilient sense of self, with less reliance on external factors for the sense of validation (5).
Changing Your Self-talk
Changing a habit of negative self-talk to a more constructive and positive inner talk can be a transformative process into becoming your own safe space. While easier said than done the first step can be as simple as recognizing the patterns of negative self-talk and learning to challenge and reframing them is the key. So let’s say when we make mistakes practicing self-compassion and adopting a non-judgmental and balanced perspective can be instrumental (2). With this practice combined with self-awareness, changing your self-talk becomes second nature in response to life’s challenges. Let us not forget that in some cases negative beliefs can persist and significantly impact our lives, which in response entails the need for help from a mental health professional. While self-help techniques hold weight in gold, professional help and support ensure a dynamic approach to tackling persistent negative beliefs while providing a safe space to explore and heal deep-seated issues (6).
I am my own sanctuary
In the ever-changing landscape and constant pressures of today, the idea of being your own safe space; your refuge is an enlightening one. Like a house built on structures from the roof, walls, and windows, we are no different from the structures within one. May it be built on structures of self-compassion, validation, and nurturing self-talk having such foundations can be enough to weather the storms of adversity, after all this has been backed by research and years of expert insights. Thus concluding that cultivating an inner sanctuary, an inner safe space can be empowering in navigating the challenges life has to offer.
Join us as we celebrate World Mental Health Day 2023. Tara, #UsapTayo!
- What does it mean to you to be your own safe space?
- How do you nurture self-compassion and self-validation as your own safe space?
- How do you balance between self-reliance and seeking support from others when maintaining your own safe space?
 Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101.
 Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. HarperCollins.
 Kelly, A. C., Zuroff, D. C., Foa, C. L., & Gilbert, P. (2019). Who benefits from self-compassion? The moderating role of trait social anxiety. Journal of Anxiety Stress and Coping, 32(5), 532-547.
 Creswell, J. D., Lindsay, E. K., & Villalba, D. K. (2016). Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 44, 1-12.
Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. Guilford Press.
 Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. International Universities Press.