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There are so many misconceptions about self-compassion, about basically being nice to yourself, that have been shown by science to be completely false!!
And, what’s even more annoying, is that they are holding you back. Totally holding you back.
Self-compassion is an incredibly powerful tool that can not only reduce that annoying negative self-talk that’s going on inside your head, but it’s been scientifically proven to help you with awesome stuff like being better able to bounce back after intense emotions, removing your limiting beliefs that are holding you back and leading to inaction, help you be more likely to take action, all while decreasing anxiety and helping with depression. <see resources at bottom for buttloads of awesome science>
Also, bonus, science says that if I have higher levels of self-compassion then I am more likely to experience boring and useless things like wisdom, happiness, curiosity, and optimism. Oh, did I say boring and useless? I meant awesome and awesome-er. If you missed Part 1 of this series, be sure to check out Podcast 10 for some amazing self-compassion info and my favorite self-compassion exercise. What? This is a series? Yup. 6 parts because that’s how important this topic is.
Let’s dive in...
OMG, people, we have got some serious issues about being nice to ourselves, about being kind to ourselves. And when you think about it, it’s totally crazy. Why is it so hard? You can be nice to other people, why isn’t it a priority to be nice to ourselves too?
Let’s get into how WRONG we are about why we shouldn’t be self-compassionate…
I hear this soooooo often from clients. And it’s probably the MOST common misperception. And it turns out that it’s total crap. I love this quote from Kristin Neff, “Think about the times you've been lost in the throes of self-criticism. Are you self-focused, or other focused in that moment? Do you have more or fewer resources to give to others?” (2019, p.26).
So think about that for a second, I think that is such a cool concept. When I am busy being mean to myself inside my head, or being mean to myself in general - when I'm not engaging in self-compassion - I am not able to be there for other people, which is the definition of being selfish.
So, I am being selfish in my own negative thoughts of myself.
It's this idea that if I'm being nice to myself then I’m not being hard enough on myself for all the stuff that I’m doing wrong. I'm taking pity on myself.
What science has actually found is that people who are self-compassionate, or are compassionate in general, are actually better able to acknowledge the things that are going wrong in their life, the things that they're doing poorly, the things that just suck. They're able to notice the bad stuff. And then, they're more willing to accept it and figure out what to do next. They're accepting it, they're being kind and compassionate to themselves, they are forgiving themselves. And they're able to move on. Instead of that, becoming the story. Noticing what’s going on with yourself and in your life and accepting it is NOT self-pity.
The next misconception is that it's about being nice all the time. OMG. I don't know why I think that is so funny because it's not about being nice all the time.
It's about taking a moment, and being kind to yourself in that moment, which does not involve being nice all the time. You're still acknowledging those thoughts and feelings, you're still being grounded in reality that maybe you did do something wrong or maybe you could have done that better. But then you are choosing to be kind to yourself about that so that you can move on and get other things done, right, that this doesn't become what you're obsessed about.
So absolutely, we need to be realistic about what's going on in our lives, the realities of things that we're doing right and the many things that we're doing wrong.
What self compassion offers is an opportunity to not get lost. Inside the negative of self judgment inside the negative of isolation. Inside the negative of making your story about only the narrative you're telling yourself about things that are going wrong.
Is it self-indulgent to want to be kind to yourself? Absolutely not. I think it's essential to want to be kind to yourself, because how else are you going to move on and get stuff done? How else are you going to figure out what's next? How are you going to take something that sucks, something that's hard, something that's challenging, and still move forward if you're not being nice to yourself, if you're not taking a moment and having a little compassion for yourself?
Really? I would argue that self-compassion takes strength. It’s hard to be nice to yourself. It’s hard to forgive yourself. It’s hard to see your failures clearly, learn from them, and then move on.
Failing sucks. Failing is hard. Suffering sucks. Suffering is hard.
I think that pretending it’s not hard is a weakness. I think that we do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that things aren’t challenging.
I have a local business to business stress management consulting business - basically I go into businesses and help employees figure out how to manage stress. I had finally gotten in the door of a client that could be potentially huge for me. It could have opened up a national market. I went in, gave it my best shot, and they didn’t hire me. It would have been so easy to say, “OMG, I suck. I can’t believe I even tried. Of course they didn’t hire me. I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s such a stupid idea anyway.” Those thoughts are a weakness. Those thoughts hold me back. Those thoughts limit me. Instead, I choose to be strong and self-compassionate. I recognize that trying to sell stuff to people is freaking hard. I’m going to fail. I’m not perfect. That’s ok. It sucks, but it’s ok. The only way I’m grow and evolve is if I keep going.
This is the super-fun idea that when you're being kind to yourself it's just a way of excusing something you've done wrong. And that’s just not true.
You need to be able to notice your mistakes, admit that you've made them, look at them realistically, before you can move on from them before they can be something that you've learned from and grown from. You can't do that if you aren't being self compassionate.
You are pausing, you are noticing, you are being kind to yourself about the mistakes that you make. You're acknowledging them, and then you're moving on. You're learning from them you're growing, you're evolving.
And then there is an interesting myth or misconception that self compassion will decrease your motivation, that you won't be as motivated to get stuff done because you're freakin being nice to yourself.
And I'd like to challenge you to consider that when you know that you are going to be nicer to yourself, then you're not as afraid of failure. When you're more open, you're more vulnerable, you're going to try more things because you failed before, were nice to yourself about it, and you came back from it. You didn't like it, but you were nice to yourself about it and because of that you were able to come back.
When we come back from failure, we're less afraid, and more likely to persist moving forward. Right? If you fail at something, and are just horrible to yourself about it - are you going to try again??? Are you going to be motivated to keep moving forward?
When we fail and we see that we're able to try again, we see that we're able to be kind to ourselves, we can keep coming back again and again and trying and doing more and that will motivate us.
So hopefully you kind of see some of the ways in which being a little bit more self-compassionate can be valuable to you, and how that could impact how you're approaching things in everyday life from how your parenting to how you're struggling with your health and wellness. Like if you eat an entire pizza when you’re on a diet, it doesn't become the whole thing you're thinking about that week, it becomes an opportunity for self-compassion, so you can try again and keep going. And within your business consider how important it is to be able to keep going when things suck, when you fail, when you are suffering, when other stuff in your life isn’t going the way that you wanted.
How can you leverage self-compassion to keep going?
And, as always, there is an action step...
Consider the following questions.
Kristen Neff, 2015, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer, 2019, Teaching the Mindful Self Compassion Program
You can dive deep into some the benefits in Dr. Neff's books above, but here is a helpful summary.
I wish you a healthy, happy, and mostly sane week!
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