How often do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake or experience failure?
If it’s a regular thing for you, you aren’t alone.
None of us likes to fall short of our goals. But especially for high-performers and those whose self-esteem is closely tied to their success, it can be really difficult to avoid feeling some serious blues when it happens.
What is self-compassion?
If we take the time to think about it, we’re likely beating ourselves up for things we’d never judge our loved ones for – especially not so harshly. In fact, we choose our loved ones over and over again, despite seeing their flaws quite clearly. We usually have a tougher time seeing ourselves as deserving of the same grace and understanding.
So what is self-compassion? Put simply, it’s the forgiveness and comfort we give to others in need – applied to ourselves.
And for what basically amounts to being nice to ourselves, self-compassion has some significant benefits. There’s evidence, for example, that it leads to better self-rated health outcomes and lower stress levels – it can bolster your efforts around sleep hygiene, exercise and healthy eating, even make it easier to quit smoking or stick to your doctor’s orders.1
Treating yourself kindly in times of struggle or difficulty can lead to fewer depressive symptoms and even alleviate ones you already have.2
Think about it this way: when we deny our natural instincts and reactions, it stresses us out. Both our bodies and minds are exhausted from the constant internal dialogue that happens when we try to talk ourselves out of feeling how we feel.
Self-compassion, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. When we acknowledge our feelings with kindness and acceptance, we’re engaging in a form of self-soothing. This de-escalates our stress response, instead of ratcheting it up even higher.
What Self-Compassion Is Not
There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there when it comes to self-compassion.
Let’s talk about it.
Isn’t it indulgent? Is self-compassion just self-pity?
- Showing compassion to ourselves isn’t the same as feeling sorry for ourselves, and it’s definitely not self-pity. In fact, it’s more like just being realistic: tough stuff is a part of life, and it’s impossible to spend every minute feeling happy or experiencing success. Self-compassion allows us to accept that we’re human, we make mistakes, and that’s perfectly okay!
Isn’t it better to show ourselves tough love?
Well… No. Positive reinforcement is actually a great way to get ourselves to learn new things, stick to new habits, etc. – while tearing ourselves down over every mistake we make is, instead, a great way to mire ourselves in self-doubt and struggle for far longer than necessary. Self-compassion helps us accept our failures, learn from them, and move forward.
It sounds like a weakness.
Self-compassion is definitely not a weakness! Quite the opposite. It takes a lot of strength to not only own up to our mistakes, but to dig deep and understand where we tripped up and why.
The best thing about self-compassion is that it’s totally accessible to you, right now.
Here’s how to incorporate self-compassion into your everyday life.
You’ve been on the internet at all for the past few years, you’re at least familiar with the idea of “mindfulness.” At its heart, mindfulness is simply the acceptance of the present moment without judgment.3
Self-compassion and mindfulness go hand in hand. The art of mindfulness keeps you in tune with your experiences and the world around you. Self-compassion lets you work with that awareness and wisdom to identify your own needs – again, without judgment – and address them.
Get good at emotional granularity.
Emotional granularity is the ability to identify your emotions with a high level of specificity. This can help you accurately pinpoint exactly what you’re feeling – and self-compassion can remind you that your emotions probably make a lot of sense, given the circumstances. Once you’re clear on the what and the why, it’s much easier to figure out the best action to take.
It’s not uncommon to hear that humans are the “top of the food chain,” in all kinds of ways. Through this line of thinking, we often absorb the belief that we should be above our emotions and strive to control them. In reality, it’s much healthier to accept and acknowledge whatever emotions pass through us – and focus on adjusting our reactions to them.
When we stop fighting ourselves and our instincts, life gets easier. We can begin to identify our true desires and start down the path to our most fulfilled selves.
Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend.
Think back to a time when your best friend went through a rough patch and turned to you for support. Did you assume it was your job to solve their problem? To take away the source of their struggles?
Probably not, right? It likely didn’t even cross your mind. Because in the vast majority of cases, “solving” a person’s pain or making it go away entirely is impossible.
So, knowing this, why do we try so hard to talk ourselves out of our own pain or upset? Instead of the usual harsh response, give yourself the love, acceptance, and support you’d give to a dear friend.
Trust your gut.
Letting go of the need for approval from others is one of the most difficult things for high-performing people to do. And while, of course, you want to make sure your actions aren’t causing harm for yourself or others, it’s crucial that you seek approval primarily from a single source – and that’s yourself.
Most of us have an internal compass, a voice from somewhere inside ourselves that tells us whether or not our actions are in line with our values and goals. It can be tricky to identify, at first, but with practice and acceptance of our true thoughts and feelings, we can learn to lean on our own instincts more and more frequently.
A Foundation for Health and Happiness
Self-compassion is the habit to hone if you want to build a solid foundation for health and happiness. It elevates a difficult day into an opportunity for true self-care, healing, and learning deeply about yourself. It can help you care better for your body and optimize the way you align your thoughts and feelings to your actions.
And perhaps most importantly, at the end of the day – you hang out with yourself all the time. Shouldn’t it be a pleasant experience?
The journey to self-compassion isn’t one you need to take alone. You always have the option of working with a therapist whose approach balances both traditional clinical methods and integrative healing therapies.
Get in touch with the team at Amplify Wellness + Performance to start the conversation today!