Noodle on This: Don’t Beat Yourself Up, Try Self-Compassion Instead
Self compassion is not self-pity nor is it self-esteem. It is about:
- Treating ourselves with kindness by not beating ourselves up when we make mistakes;
- Accepting that we are human beings who are inherently imperfect;
- Realizing we all experience pain – both physical and emotional; and,
- Taking a balanced approach toward our emotions, neither suppressing them nor exaggerating them – in other words, living mindfully.
Research psychologist Kristen Neff, PhD. and others have found that when we treat ourselves with compassion, we experience more life satisfaction, optimism, social connectedness, joy, peace of mind and wisdom.
As some wise person once said, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Self-compassion is about skipping the suffering and dealing directly with the pain.
Self-compassion in Action
My friend Suzanne was a victim of the Great Recession of 2008. She was laid off after many years with the same company. She regularly received excellent performance evaluations, several promotions and raises. She was devastated. Even as she worked on her resume, met with a job counselor, and joined several networking groups, part of her was always asking, “what did I do wrong; who did I annoy that I shouldn’t have; what could I have done differently?” All these thoughts led to depression the seemed to slowly engulf her.
So, she took a day off, went to the beach, and had a serious talk with herself. Basically, she told herself, “it’s not you – it’s the economy! There are several million people in the same situation. It is what it is! So, stop beating yourself up.”
It is what it is became a common thought for her when there were no responses to her submitted resumes; when she did not receive a call back for a second interview or when a prospective employer called to say. “Thanks, but no thanks. We hired someone else.”
What Suzanne did not realize, until years later, was that she was treating herself with compassion, which includes.
- Kindness – “don’t beat yourself up.”
- Common humanity – “you are not alone, millions of people lost their jobs.”
- Mindfulness – “it is what it is.”
With self-compassion, along with the constant loving support of family and friends, she found a job. And what a great job it is! Self-compassion helped her get through what could have been a horribly long, depressing and difficult time. Instead, she handled it with patience and with her sense of humor and sense of self intact.
Your Noodling Challenge…
The serenity prayer—made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs—captures self-compassion beautifully: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” ~ Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, 2011
How do you show compassion for yourself when faced with challenges? Share your ideas with us in the Comments section below.
I’ll go first. I take a short break and move – just a five or ten minute walk. It helps calm me down and clear my mind.
Learn more about self-compassion and find your level of self-compassion with this self-assessment tool developed by Kristin Neff, PhD.
Riddle Me This
Q: Why did the traffic light turn red?
A: You would too if you had to change in the middle of the street!
* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.
Beach image courtesy of Gena Living.
White lotus image courtesy of 1MS.NET