Have you ever mucked up a job interview and chastised yourself for it? Gone over and over and over how you could and should have done better? I would ask, ‘Would you talk to a good friend in the same way, if they told you their failed interview story?’ Or would you kindly try to alleviate their disappointment and encourage them for next time?
A few years back when life really had gone pear-shaped (or more like the shape of one of those very amusing vegetables) I found it hard to know what to expect of myself as my world felt like it was falling apart. It was easy to fluctuate between self-pity (could this really have happened to me?) and then spring to the other end of the spectrum (stop moaning, there are people starving around the world, and being tortured and murdered every day, be grateful). It was time to learn about self-compassion.
Self-compassion is not the same as saying ‘poor me’, nor making excuses for ourselves; and it is very different from ‘self-esteem’. Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas, Austin, has carried out pioneering work in this area. She suggests we think of a kind, loving mother and how they would treat their child. They would not let them slack, but insist they go to school, eat sensibly, and get their sleep. Good parenting involves encouragement, and a compassionate approach when mistakes are made, whilst realistically offering ways forward if things go wrong.
Self-compassion is all about self-acceptance. As we have already established, I am a perfectionist, so the self-flagellation that used to occur when I did something wrong, or made a mistake, was way out of proportion with the act itself. I would never, ever have talked to a friend or loved one in the way I did to myself for some of my minor indiscretions or errors along the way. Not only that, I would agonise over one tiny mistake for days (sometimes weeks), as if I had committed the ultimate sin.
Filip Raes has examined the relationship between self-compassion, ruminative thinking, worry, depression and anxiety. His findings were that those with higher levels of self-compassion tended to brood less about their failings. Raes concludes, “… one way via which self-compassion has buffering effects on depression and anxiety is through its positive effects on unproductive repetitive thinking.”
So give today’s Happynesshub Hint a go. As I have said before in our time together, if it merely means you become fully aware of the true situation, then that is the first step to real change.
Please be compassionate towards yourself today!
Please click here for further research on Self-Compassion.