“You’re an idiot!”
Do things sometimes go wrong for you?
Do you ever have those times where your carefully thought through plan turns to custard because you
- Got the time difference between the East and West coast wrong and missed an important call
- Didn’t press send on that carefully worded 50-page proposal you worked on for three days and were left wondering why you hadn’t received the courtesy of an acknowledgment
- Misjudged how much space you had when backing your car into that tight parking space
We stuff up frequently, and sometimes big time.
It’s annoying, frustrating and we can feel stupid, but the worse still we berate and chastise for our mistakes.
It’s not about feeling sorry for ourselves or expecting a pity party.
It’s the acceptance that things haven’t turned out as expected, we’re doing it tough and it hurts.
Compassion is the reaction and kindness we might receive from a friend, it’s supportive and helpful.
Why do we beat ourselves up so much?
It’s a strategy we’ve adopted to keep safe. It’s because we seek the approval and acceptance of others, we want to be part of the tribe. However, our negativity bias means we veer to judgement and criticism when we don’t meet our perfectionistic and impossibly high standards, made worse if we also suffer from imposterdom.
But being our own supercritical coach means we can never win. There’s always going to be someone else who is better, smarter, faster and makes fewer mistakes than us. So, we start telling ourselves stories, that in order to do better, we must punish ourselves for our shortcomings.
Does this sound familiar to you?
This then lowers our self-esteem and confidence negating any positives and keeps us stuck in a ruminative groove reminding ourselves how useless, ineffective and worthless we are.
If you can’t show compassion to yourself, you can’t truly show compassion to others.
Self-compassion matters for health and wellbeing
Studies have shown self-compassion is important to
- Your emotional and physical wellbeing
- Lower rates of stress and depression
- Reduced perfectionism, shame and performance anxiety
- Generating more positive and less negative emotions such as fear, irritability and distress
- Lowers pain and boosts the immune system
Dr Kristin Neff Associate Professor from the University of Texas and co-founder of the Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion describes three components of compassion.
- Self-kindness. Speak kindly to yourself (and watch your language!)
Instead of berating yourself, note what happened and what you can do to make yourself feel less bad about it. This is not absolving ourselves from our responsibilities but factors in space to reflect on and learn from the experience without self-flagellation.
- Common humanity. We all experience life as painful or difficult from time to time and it’s not uncommon to feel badly about our struggles.
- Mindfulness. This is the awareness of ourselves and our relationship with the outside world, observing our associated emotions without judgement
What this is really telling us
Our feelings and emotions are ever-present and ever-changing. Feelings are merely a temporary state of affairs. We can’t control the emotions that bubble to the surface, but we can choose how we respond to their presence and modulate them accordingly.
Experiencing pain is as much of the normal human condition as happiness.
We can give ourselves permission to treat ourselves more kindly.
Self-compassion can be strengthened with practice. Studies have shown how participating in self-compassion training can enhance our self-compassion by 43%.
We can get better at using self-compassion in the heat of the moment. Giving yourself a self-compassion break helps you to heal and move forward.
How easily do you show yourself compassion?
Do you need to be a little kinder to yourself?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.