As we set intentions, resolutions, and goals, it is important to evaluate ourselves from a growth mindset rather than from shame. Is self-compassion a part of your journey?
by Alicia Ramos
January 1, 2022
When you set goals, are you super hard on yourself? Is it hard when you face the possibility of failure?
The answer to both questions has been “yes” on many occasions for me. As a teen, I often struggled with how I looked, how I felt about my body, and not feeling like I was enough. Since then, I have noticed that I tend to overcompensate by focusing on work, the next goal, or the next certificate on the wall. This also showed up in my relationship with my body–I believed I was not thin thin enough or fit enough no matter what I did. I knew all the “right” workouts and meal plans as a Nutrition and Fitness Coach, but deep down something was still missing. While everything on the outside of my life was in the perfect place, my heart was hollow. I realized something had to change, and the first step was my relationship with myself.
As I recently reflected on this subject, I recognized that there is a key factor we often overlook when we set goals and assess progress: self-compassion. While we may minimize its importance, research actually has shown a link between lack of self-compassion and mental health challenges like insecurity and anxiety.
Since self-compassion is critical to our mental health, it’s important to understand how to practice it. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a fellow Buddhist, is a self-compassion researcher. According to Neff, self-compassion has three components: self-kindness, recognizing one’s own humanity, and mindfulness–my personal favorite!
Self-compassion is essential to a healthy relationship with ourselves, but we what’s good for us isn’t always easy for us. Irrational beliefs, such as the examples below, may keep us from giving ourselves the kindness we deserve.
We “overstand” others and minimize our own feelings.
Many of us find it easier to extend compassion outward to others. In contrast, self-compassion is about turning inward and creating space for understanding, accepting, and loving ourselves.
We confuse self-compassion with selfishness or self-pity.
Our life experiences may lead us to believe that we should put others first at our own expense. We may have learned that we are being too soft on ourselves or making excuses when we recognize our humanity and challenges.
We believe shame is motivation.
We may believe that being critical of ourselves will motivate change. What actually happens when we take this approach, is we invite shame into our relationships with ourselves not realizing how detrimental it is to our self-image and self-worth.
We strive for perfection.
Being a perfectionist can be a sign of low self-compassion; perfectionists tend to be less forgiving and feel worthy only when they have attained sufficient success.
Self-compassion is a practice. It can help to instill feelings of hope and fulfillment in one’s life. As you continue on your journey, kindly consider the following questions:
Create space for this reflection. You deserve to put yourself on the top of your list! If this is a difficult process to do alone, connecting with a therapist is a powerful first step.
Author Talks: Kristin Neff on harnessing fierce self-compassion. (2021). McKinsey Insights, N.PAG.
EDITED BY CORI HILL
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that the above article is informational only and not a replacement for therapy or medical advice. You are encouraged to make decisions for your mental health in consultation with a licensed mental health professional.
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