Do you find the idea of being self-compassionate difficult?
Whether it’s struggling to ‘bounce back’ from a setback, shaming yourself when you make a mistake at work, telling yourself you’re the worse parent ever if you shout at your children or call yourself names when you look in the mirror and aren’t happy with what you see.
Today I want to talk about why self-compassion can be hard and I’ll tell you a secret, it’s not because you don’t deserve it or because your self-focused or selfish.
Why might you think self-compassion is unhelpful?
First let’s just quickly check in with the definition of self-compassion.
As Dr. Kristin Neff (Professor and researcher focussing on self-compassion) states, “self-compassion is simply the process of turning compassion inwards. We are kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes or feel inadequate. We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgemental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives”
It might seem hard to believe that self-compassion could be seen as unhelpful, but there are a lot of myths about self-compassion that might actually be holding you back.
So, in case you’re not aware of them, I want to bring them to your attention. Awareness is everything, so let’s get more aware of the myths around self-compassion and bust them…
IT’S SEEN AS WEAKNESS
A lot of people believe that if we show ourselves compassion when we make a mistake or feel there is something wrong with ourselves or our behaviour that we are showing weakness. Self-compassion can be viewed as a bit touch feely or something that makes you weak or soft.
Perhaps you’ve grown up being told that being self-critical builds resilience and actually helps you move on, learn and make changes. Leading to the belief that self-criticism is beneficial and that to be self-compassionate is unhelpful and shows that you’re out of control, self-pitying or unable to take responsibility for yourselves and your actions.
Fact: Of course, we can all take lessons from things that happen in our lives but being able to let go, is taking control. Shaming yourself and criticising yourself will never help you feel better about yourself or achieve your goals.
IT MEANS YOU DON’T CARE
Look sometimes we do things ‘wrong’. We make mistakes and perhaps do things that we aren’t necessarily proud of. When this happens, do you ever think that if you show yourself compassion that it means you don’t care? I think this is a common myth, and it’s understandable that you might think it.
But, let’s be honest, has that ever helped? Or does it lead you to feel bad about the situation and yourself? Perhaps you can’t let it go and the shame and guilt follow you around for years? Sometimes people want you to continue to feel bad, so you slip into that role to please them and make yourself miserable, building a habit of self-hatred and self-criticism.
Fact: Dwelling on something that happens, truly has no purpose. Of course, apologise if you hurt someone or do something you feel you need to apologise for, but then forgive yourself. You can’t go back and change it, so ask yourself “how does holding on to this help me”?
IT STOPS YOU TAKING ACTION
Ever think that being self-compassionate means that you’re ‘letting go’ or that showing yourself kindness is the same as ‘letting yourself off the hook’ or ‘giving up’.
Maybe you finally decide to give up the endless and pointless dieting cycle and work on accepting your body, que the thought that accepting your body means you don’t care about yourself and no longer want to be ‘healthy’.
Or you make a mistake at work and think that to show yourself understanding and compassion means that you don’t care, don’t want to learn from it or are rubbish at your job.
Fact: The only way to take action is to be able to show yourself compassion. When you can be compassionate towards yourself, you’re able to continue to grow and will actually be more resilient when you face setbacks than if you shamed and criticised yourself. Self-compassion actually motivates you to make changes and reach your goals because you don’t feel inadequate, you care about yourself and want to be happy.
How can you start to challenge the idea that self-compassion is unhelpful?
If you’re not sure how being more self-compassionate would look for you then try this exercise to help you define your own idea of what self-compassion would look like in your life and challenge any idea that you might have that it’s unhelpful:
- Draw 2 lines on a piece of paper
- On one side write down what you feel the possible downsides of being self-compassionate are
- Now think about people you feel are compassionate and on the other side write down the positive qualities or behaviours that person has, which makes you feel they are compassionate
- Last, I want you to look at both lists and ask yourself “how does your idea of what a compassionate person looks like fit with your belief about the downsides of being compassionate. Are they similar? Or do they contradict each other?
This is a simple exercise, but hopefully shows you that we can view being compassionate towards ourselves as different to the compassion we might expect from others or find as positive traits in other people.
But the truth is compassion is compassion whether it’s aimed at someone else or towards yourself.
Can you overcome the belief that self-compassion is unhelpful?
Self-compassion is a key component of healthy self-esteem and a powerful way to silence your inner critic.
There are a few ways you can start to build self-compassion but if you find being compassionate towards yourself hard then it’s definitely something I recommend you spend time working on.
Inside my Be You Membership there is a full masterclass on being self-compassionate with resources to help you along the way, plus lots of support from myself and the other ladies inside. So, if building your self-compassion feels too hard to do alone, come a join us on your journey and let me support you and right now you can get your first 14 days completely free.
Hey I’m Natalie, Supporting women like you on their road to self-acceptance and building their self-esteem is – as cliche as it sounds – my calling.