By Amy Dee
“I can’t believe I’ve gained weight!”
“I’ve gotten nothing done!”
“How did I messed up so badly?.”
Are you tough on yourself when you mess up or miss a goal? Join the club. To be honest, I tend to be pretty hard on myself.
As a matter of fact, research shows that I am not alone. The problem is, beating ourselves up isn’t helpful. In fact, studies show that the lack of self-compassion is the root cause of most of our mental suffering.
For example, when all my speaking engagements were postponed in March 2020, I had BIG plans to get lots done.
-Lose 40 lbs: to lower my cholesterol and wear that red dress on stage. (The skinny dress I’d worn twice, ten years ago)
-Feng shui my house.
-Cull and organize my kitchen cabinets and dresser drawers.
-Repaint my entire upstairs
-Update our lighting fixtures.
In contrast, this is I’ve accomplished:
– Organized one kitchen cupboard.
-Lost ten pounds. (I lost 25 pounds, regained 15 pounds binge eating Moose Tracks ice cream and kettle-cooked jalapeño chips. Not proud, just the facts, Ma’m.)
Unfortunately, seeing the numbers skyrocket on my bathroom scale or digging through a messy kitchen pantry can make me very angry with myself. But to get back on track, research shows that self-compassion is the path to self-improvement.
What is Self-Compassion?
When we fail, struggle, or notice a quality about ourselves we don’t like, self-compassion encourages us to be supportive and understand ourselves. Self-compassion requires you to be a good, kind friend to yourself.
Why Do We Dodge Self-Compassion?
I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be. — Kristen Neff
Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneering self-compassion researcher, author, and teacher, tells us that self-compassion isn’t self-pity, and it doesn’t give us a license to whine and avoid taking responsibility. Instead, self-compassion asks us to experience, accept and deal with those unpleasant feelings and emotions. Rather than brood and ruminate about lousy stuff, self-compassion helps you embrace, process, and let go of it.
Sadly, deep down, many believe that if we don’t blame or punish ourselves for failure, we will become too lazy to change. But, being compassionate to yourself won’t make you complacent. Instead, research shows that self-compassion works lots better for personal motivation than self-punishment. So, instead of dodging personal accountability, self-compassion actually strengthens it.
Compassion contains Compass and Passion
Compassion/Compassion. Have you ever noticed that inside the word compassion, you can find the words’ compass’ and ‘passion’?
A compass is an instrument that determines your direction. When it comes to self-compassion, the arrow points to you.
Passion is a very powerful feeling or an extreme interest in something. Self-compassion requires both feelings of self-love and self-mercy, and interest in self-understanding, self-empathy. Lovingly investigating ourselves, warts and all is an important part of our life journey.
3 Steps to Self-Compassion
1. Respect Your Emotions: Allow for Your Pain
This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.
— Kristin Neff
Self-compassion requires you to honor and respect your own suffering. Being present with the hurt helps you learn more about yourself and gives value to even unpleasant experiences.
Telling yourself the truth enables you to see the good, the bad, and the ugly within you. Self-compassion encourages you to accept every bit of yourself. It asks you to draw a bigger circle to encompass all of you during this once in forever life journey.
2. Recognize your Common Humanity
You must allow yourself to fail because your setbacks, stress, and suffering are part of the human condition.
You are Not Alone.
To clarify, self-compassion asks us to acknowledge our common humanity by realizing that everyone is flawed. Being flawed is part of the human experience.
Furthermore, you don’t have to be right all the time. Self-compassion allows you to let yourself off the hook if things didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Stop expecting perfection and beating yourself up for falling short. Forgive yourself. You are a mortal, after all. Being human means you get to be a fallible, wonderful person just like everyone else.
To begin with, remember and honor your core values. Your values are the things that influence the way you live and work. These are your priorities. Knowing your core values will help you make decisions that align with what is most important to you. Values give you a way to measure whether your life is turning out the way you want.
Use a kind voice to ask yourself helpful questions such as:
How can I help myself right now? What do I need most?
What feels hardest?”
Next, watch for negative self- talk. Negative self-talk is commonly very black and white, all or nothing. “I am a loser because I regained the weight I lost.” Instead of accepting this negative tape, ask yourself, “Is this true?” Find evidence to the contrary.
For example, I did regain most of my weight (not good). But, I also took care of two sets of family members who lived in my home for six months (good).
Respond to your negative self-talk by remembering: you are enough, you do good work, too. You have friends and family who count on you and love you.
Beware of the Busy Trap
In his 2012 New York Times piece, “The Busy Trap” Tim Krieder writes,
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
Restrictions caused by COVID has taken many of us out of the everyday busyness loop. Consequently, some of us have more ‘free time’ to enjoy ourselves. Despite this, instead of enjoying the time off, our obsession with busyness challenges us to be productive! Use this time wisely! Optimize it!
Now, in addition to worrying about catching a potentially deadly disease or the world economy crashing, our anxiety is boosted by the worry of ‘not doing enough.’
This is not helpful!
To put it bluntly, beating yourself up because you didn’t finish writing your novel, learn Latin, or repaint your house isn’t helpful. Instead, those negative emotions suck up the energy to need to move forward.
In other words, focusing on everything you haven’t done or should do, drains the energy and attention you need for future tasks. So, instead of concentrating on the things you didn’t do, shift your mindset by noticing all you have done.
To be sure, there’s no Feng shui here, but I alone take care of my elderly mom. My daughters reach out for help frequently. A friend told me I helped her begin her sobriety journey. My dearest friendships have deepened and strengthened.
I’ve done some good stuff, just not feng shui stuff.
After all, even if you screw up some stuff, you don’t screw up everything. Make a list of all the good things you’ve done to remind yourself of your accomplishments.
Remember: You Matter!
Self-compassion is the act of saying YES to yourself. In effect, it sends the message, ‘I matter.’
Most importantly, self-compassion reminds you to embrace self-love even when self-loathing yells louder.
Planning your next event? Get in touch with us at the Capitol City Speakers Bureau today to schedule your ideal speaker and make your event a success!