Why Self-Compassion Leads to Success
Have you ever felt like a failure? Have you ever looked in the mirror and called yourself ugly or fat? Or maybe you look at your life and feel unaccomplished, thinking that this wasn’t where you saw yourself in your thirties or forties. You expected financial stability, several kids, love and laughter non-stop with your partner-in-crime. But the reality of life isn’t quite as beautiful as the image you’d painted in your mind’s eye.
It is a brutal world out there. Every day we’re bombarded with imagery and societal standards to look perfect and to be living the perfect lifestyle. It’s no wonder we often find ourselves questioning our self worth and feeling less than comfortable in our own skin.
Keeping up with our fast-paced society and with what the media defines as beautiful is too big a shoe to fill. What is wanted from us is constantly evolving with the times. When I was in middle school being tomboy thin was in. But by the time I got to high school it was all about having a small butt (which I have never had) and big breasts (also a lack thereof).
Big butts have gained popularity in more recent years but it even though they became socially accepted as beautiful, that didn’t seem to solve the root of the problem for me. I didn’t instantly become happy just because the shape of my booty was “in”. I simply found something else in my appearance or in my life that I wasn’t content with and honed in on it like a hawk. The point I’m trying to make is that we are WAY too hard on ourselves. And it doesn’t seem to matter what other people say or think, whether parts of us are indeed socially accepted as beautiful. We are our own worst critics, especially when it comes to judging our appearances.
Too much judgment and too much negativity does not do a body any good. If anything, it actually holds us back from reaching our full potential. Think about it, you tell a child for years on end that they’re worthless or ugly, do you honestly expect that child to grow into a wholesome, successful individual?
We need to learn how to love ourselves better and let go of the idea of being perfect. We need to question the expectations and images we create in our minds and conceptualize them into something more real, more tangible and less destructive.
One way to do this is through self-compassion.
What is Self-Compassion?
- Being kind to yourself;
- Recognizing that suffering and personal feelings of inadequacy is normal;
- Being mindful by observing negative behaviors to gain understating and awareness.
Here are some examples of what compassion is and what compassion isn’t. Do any of these ring true to you?
|Giving yourself a break
|Giving yourself a “get out of jail” free card all the time
|Being kind to yourself
|Letting yourself off the hook
|Choosing to be genuinely kind
|Avoiding being mean
|Having crucial conversations and saying difficult things when you need to
|Being “nice” or a doormat because you’re afraid of conflict
|Rumination or endless replay of errors and failures
|Living without any moral compass
|Common decency and empathy
|Being honest and seeing the big picture
|Ignoring real problems or concerns
|Recognizing and balancing your needs with others
|Being either overly self-centered or ignoring your own needs
|Recognizing moments of genuine suffering
|“Woe is me” self-indulgence and whining
|Truly nurturing acts of self-kindness – taking extra time to sleep, rest or play
|Going on a wild night out
|Focusing on the process – trying to live according to your values and principles and accepting that every day won’t be perfect
|Focusing on the outcome – on whether you got something right according to an external standard and being harshly critical if you don’t get the anticipated reward
Self-compassion takes practice just like everything in life, but you can begin with some very simple steps.
1. Listening to your thoughts
Start to take note of what your inner voice or critic is saying. The good and the bad. We recommend keeping a journal and writing it down. We’ve created a journal specifically with our nutrition clients in mind with plenty of pages to note any kinds of thoughts you’re having about your journey. Sometimes identifying a thought you’re having by writing it down can immediately help you to overcome it and dismiss it.
2. Challenging your thoughts
If you find yourself having the same thought frequently, challenge yourself and question this self-talk. Is what you’re saying or thinking about yourself really true? What would you tell a friend or family member if they were thinking the same way about themselves? Try writing to yourself as if you were writing to a friend. That’s the level of kindness you should be showing to yourself.
3. Changing your thoughts
Think about different things you can do to change this thinking. Replace the negative words with positive ones. Instead of using phrases such as I will never reach my goal weight or I will always be fat, stop using absolutes and start thinking about what you can do to change why you feel that way. Is there anything you can do? Explore your thoughts and reconstruct them into positive ideas like, “I may not reach my goal weight in 3 months, but if I stay committed, I will get there one day.”
Contrary to what society tends to think, self-compassion is not a way of letting ourselves off the hook. Self-compassion is a necessary quality and a skill that gives us a feeling of being worthy. It’s incredibly important to be self-compassionate in order to develop a better relationship with our body and image.
Kristin Neff provides a helpful test for assessing your level of self-compassion along with many other helpful articles and posts about this topic. There are many guided meditations and other exercises you can work through that can make a huge difference to your perspective.
Five Questions to ask your support network
Remember we should always treat ourselves with the same amount of kindness that we extend to the people we love and care about. If you are ever feeling low, a great way to remind yourself that you are a beautiful person and worthy of everything you desire, is to reach out to your support network.
All you have to do is send out an email to some of your biggest “cheerleaders” (i.e. family, friends, co-workers, mentors and coaches) and have them answer five questions.
(courtesy of Maxie McCoy)
- What makes me irreplaceable?
- What is my superpower?
- What is holding me back?
- Where do you think I will be five years from now?
- Anything else you want to add about my potential, values or talents?
You’ll amazed by the genuine support and belief that these people have for you. Stop doubting yourself and live up to your potential that others recognize you have!
When I notice negative self-talk start seeping into my thoughts, I’m reminded of this quote by Ghandi:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Remember, what we tell ourselves everyday is very powerful. Starting your day with an encouraging and powerful affirmation is one way to help you cultivate a more positive self-image and a more compassionate relationship with yourself. Something I like to tell myself most mornings is “I am enough”. I hope you’ll join me some days in this collective thought, honoring ourselves as perfectly imperfect human beings.