Are You Wimping Out by Being Self-Compassionate?
Self-compassion isn’t some kind of self improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. It’s about having compassion for all those unwanted parts … those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at. ~Pema Chodron
So, what if you made a major mistake on the job, or despite all the planning and hard work you missed a BIG goal by a mile. How would you react? Would your self-esteem immediately take a nose dive? Maybe you’d start beating yourself up with a flood of internal negative “I’m such a loser!” self-talk thinking this will in some way end up motivating you to do better next time?
What if I were to suggest a more effective approach might be to simply acknowledge the failure without judging it, in the process treating yourself to a healthy dose of self-compassion … would that make you feel like you were wimping out? Does the very idea of being kind to yourself after a stumble feel wrong, as though you’re not driving yourself hard enough, and therefore will never achieve (or be) anything … special?
Common sense tells us that all that has been said about the importance of redefining failure and mistakes as opportunities for growth is true and logical. And yet, we continue to allow these events to adversely affect us, primarily because the very nature of self-esteem means we can’t help but compare ourselves to others.
Being self-compassionate provides the benefits of self-esteem without the drawbacks …
Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves. While there is no question that extended periods of low self-esteem can lead to depression and lack of motivation, excessive self-esteem can also be challenging as it is often based on how much we differ from others, or how special we are, in other words … it is not okay to be average.
The desire to feel special is understandable. The problem is that by definition it’s impossible for everyone to be above average at the same time. ~Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion
In contrast self-compassion is not based on self-evaluation. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). In other words, with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself.
One of the most important gifts you can give yourself is to accept that you have the power to create your own life experience.
- Choose your story carefully: When we tell ourselves we are not good enough, not smart enough, not working hard enough – all limiting beliefs – we lower our energy and hold ourselves back. At any time you can choose to rewrite your story and change the things you are saying to yourself, about yourself.
- Become self-aware: Self-awareness is about noticing what is happening in the moment and having no judgment about it. Acknowledge you are feeling hurt or disappointed and just be with it, compassionately and with kindness. Self-compassion is about embracing your sorrow in a kind, loving manner, not a quick fix to make the pain go away.
- Establish self-nurturing rituals: Many people, women especially, are taught to put others ahead of themselves. Self-compassion can seem like the opposite of what you “should” be doing: taking care of others. But making time for activities that you enjoy and taking care of your own needs on a regular basis will boost your overall health, strength and resilience so that you can be fully ready to face life’s challenges.
- Re-think motivational tactics: We know that motivation is that driving force that pushes us to go after the things we want in life. There’s no question motivation is a good thing. The problem is that very often motivational tactics include self-criticism; beating ourselves up for shortcomings or failures in the mistaken belief that being hard on ourselves will ramp up our motivation. In fact, according to research self-criticism actually undermines motivation, while a dose of self-compassion increases motivation for improvement by making it easier and more desirable to learn from our mistakes.
- Embrace that we are all imperfect: When we criticize or judge ourselves it’s very easy to experience feelings of isolation, as though no one else could possibly understand how we feel as a result of our disappointment. The beauty of true self-compassion is an improved sense of belonging, the feeling that we are all in this life together. The happiest and most successful people in the world know all too well the feelings of being flawed; they simply choose to look at their own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding.
When you are able to be self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your remarkable qualities in order to protect your ego. It should come as no surprise then that self-compassion leads to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness, and to less anxiety and depression.
So the next time you make a mistake, or experience a failure, rather than beating yourself, try a little self-compassion. You are worth it!
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