It is quite common to beat ourselves up to the faults of both big and small. The premise of self-criticism comes at a price: it does make us anxious, quite dissatisfied with our life, more so depressed and that is in turn can be counterproductive.
It causes us to lose complete faith in ourselves, and that is going to make us less likely to try to change and condition us for failure. If every time you fail or make a mistake you may beat yourself up, then you are going to very quickly try to avoid failure at all costs. It is a natural survival instinct.
The biggest problem with using self-criticism as a motivator is that it is really painful to be honest with yourself about your weaknesses because you know you are going to tear yourself to shreds with self-criticism
Now to put things in perspective: Self-compassion is the one associated with what is called the “learning goals” rather than “performance goals.” People who are self-compassionate, want to learn and also grow for its own sake, not because they want to influence other people.
Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others. -Christopher Germer
The motivational power of self-compassion
People give the reason that they are not self-compassionate for the very fear that they will be too easy on themselves. So does self-compassion mean been self-indulgent? Lower self-efficacy beliefs (i.e., lower self-confidence in their abilities), which does undermine their potential for success is set by the pattern of self-criticism.
It is the habit of self-criticism that engenders fear of failure, meaning that self-critics often do not try achieving their goals because the possibility of failure is totally unacceptable!
Compassion is concerned with the alleviation of suffering. When we do feel compassion for our own pain especially when the pain comes from all our maladaptive and inappropriate habits and behaviours; we want to completely heal our pain. We totally want to makes certain changes and improvements that will indeed help us suffer less.
Motivational power of self-criticism comes from the fear of self-punishment, it is seen that the motivational power of self-compassion comes from the desire to be totally healthy.
Please note that self-compassionate people set high standards for themselves, but they are not highly upset when they do not meet their goals. Instead, they are more likely to set new goals for themselves after failure rather than wallowing in feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment.
Self-compassionate people are more likely to take up the responsibility for their past mistakes, while acknowledging them with the greater emotional equanimity. Engaging people in healthier behaviours such as sticking to their weight-loss goals, exercising, quitting smoking and then seeking medical care when needed showcases self-compassion.
So, please note that self-compassion is not the same as being easy and undemanding on ourselves. It is an absolute way of nurturing and caring for ourselves so that we can ultimately reach our full potential.
Nurturing ourselves: from inside to outside
Please note that by forgiving and nurturing yourself one can set the stage up for better health, relationships, and even general well-being.
Here are actually a few ways in order to do the same:
Comfort your body. Eat something healthy. Lie down and rest your body. Take a lovely walk. When you can do anything to improve how you feel physically; you do a much-needed dose of self-compassion.
Do write a letter to yourself. Please describe plus elaborate on a situation that has caused you to feel pain (a breakup with a lover, a job loss, a poorly received presentation etc.). Write a letter to yourself by way of describing the situation without actually blaming anyone. Go ahead to completely acknowledge your feelings.
Give yourself encouragement. Please look at this that if something bad or painful happens to you, think of what you would say to a good friend if the same thing were to happen to him or her. Do direct all the compassionate responses toward yourself.
Practice mindfulness. There is the total non-judgmental observation of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions, without trying to suppress or deny them.
Going on board with kindness
Learn to respond with kindness in order to showcase Self- Worth. This is stable, strong and resilient, and you can take it with you everywhere. Self-worth depends on social comparison which is very fragile. Self-worth that is based on self-kindness and self-compassion is quite stable.
When we have self-worth based on self-kindness, we are more kind to others. When we have self-worth based on comparison with others, we may do some very nasty and obnoxious things, like bullying people who are below us.
Please note: Self-compassion is not about self-esteem, feeling better than others, or pursuing perfection. It is all about being kind to yourself, no matter what happens. Self-compassion is actually about cultivating feelings of security plus self-worth in the midst of the successes and the failings, and the more you practice it, the more you will live in it.
Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend or say a loved one. To begin with think about what the experience of compassion feels like.
First, in order to have compassion for others, you must notice that they are actually suffering. If you do ignore that homeless person you spot on the street, you cannot possibly feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is.
Secondly, compassion involves feeling moved and when this occurs, you feel an absolute warmth, caring, and the utmost desire to help the suffering person in some way.
Finally, when you do go on to feel compassion for another (rather than say pity), it implies that you truly realise that suffering, failure, and imperfection is all a part of the shared human experience. Self-compassion translates to the fact that you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.
The four steps towards practicing self-compassion
1. Notice your pain and suffering.
2. Do reach out with emotion, sympathy, and a complete desire to help.
3. Offer care and kindness.
4. Recognise that it is human to suffer, fail, mess up, lose, disappoint and that is absolutely okay.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fear versus truth (Bursting the myths of self-compassion)
Fear: Self-compassion will make us weak and vulnerable.
Truth: Please note that self-compassion is a reliable source of inner strength that confers the courage and enhances resilience when we are faced with the difficulties. Self-compassionate people are way better able to cope up with all the tough situations such as divorce, trauma, or chronic pain.
Fear: Self-compassion is actually the same as being self-indulgent.
Truth: It is actually just the opposite. Compassion does incline us towards the long-term health and well-being, and not always towards the short-term pleasure. Self-compassionate people do engage in healthier behaviours such as exercising, eating well, drinking less, and even incorporate going to the doctor more regularly.
Fear: Self-compassion is really a form of making excuses for bad behaviour.
Truth: Self-compassion does provide the safety needed in order to admit mistakes rather than needing to actually blame someone else for them. Self-compassionate people do take up greater personal responsibility for their actions and are more likely to even apologise if they have clearly offended someone.
If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield
The yin and the yang of self-compassion
The yin of self-compassion contains the attributes of “being with” ourselves in a compassionate way that is by way of comforting, soothing, validating.
- Comforting is something that we might do for a dear friend who is struggling, especially by providing support for his/ her emotional needs.
- Soothing is also a certain way in order to help a person feel better, and it often refers particularly towards helping a person feel physically calm.
- Validating helps a person feel better by way of understanding very clearly what the person is exactly going through and saying it out in a kind and tender way.
The yang of self-compassion is about “acting in the world” that is by protecting, providing, and motivating ourselves. The first step toward self-compassion is feeling absolutely safe from any harm. Protecting implies saying no to others who are actually hurting us or towards the harm we do inflict on ourselves, often in various unconscious ways.
It is by providing means giving ourselves what we really need. We have totally know what we need, then we do need the conviction that we actually deserve to get our needs met, and then we have to go ahead and try to actually meet our needs.
This is why self-compassion is the resource which gives us the safety needed towards meeting difficult experiences with lesser resistance. Please do imagine how you would feel if you were overwhelmed and a friend walked into the room, gave you a hug, sat down beside you, listened to your complete distress, and then even helped you work out a concrete plan of action.
Thankfully and magically, that compassionate friend can be you to yourself. It does begin by opening to what is, without any resistance.
Please note that when we truly accept and then validate the reality that we are certainly the imperfect human beings, prone towards making mistakes and struggle, our hearts do naturally begin to soften. Then self-compassion forms a state of warm-hearted, connected presence that strengthens us during the difficult moments in our lives.
About the Author
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one-on-one basis in Mumbai.