Self Compassion, do we even think about it?
If we do what we regard as wrong, how do we deal with it to ourselves. How far do we go to make ourselves feel bad. Would we speak like that to anyone else?
I want to investigate what goes on when we deal with a mistake, or a bad thing, or a repeated (what we think is a) flaw in our character. Let’s pick a scenario where we can explore self compassion (or non-self compassion as the case may be). Let’s pick a few common examples…
- A person is in work and for the moment it’s fine; its at a good pace and nothing is stressing them out. All of a sudden, lots of work comes in. This person is already a worrier, anxious/ stressed. The person then goes into panic mode and can’t do the job properly (they think). Afterwards they go into the staff room and begin to tell themselves off for being so stupid…again!
This person is shouting at themselves in their own head…”What will people think! Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else?! What’s wrong with you!”
- Your friend is in work and for the moment it’s fine; its at a good pace and nothing is stressing them out. All of a sudden, lots of work comes in. This friend is already a worrier, anxious/stressed. Your friend then goes into panic mode and can’t do the job properly (they think). Afterwards they go into the staff room and you follow and begin to tell your friend off for being so stupid… again!
Your shouting at your friend, “what will people think! Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else! What’s wrong with you!”
Lets try another scenario…
- I go on a date, I sit there with my coat fastened up, anxious and just smiling. I know that I’m not full to the brim with confidence and the thing in the front of my head is that I have no confidence, it’s probably not going to turn out well, and that I didn’t want this anyway. We have a few drinks and he’s quite nice…well he’s ok. I don’t really know if he’s quite nice because he’s not saying much! I get home and I’m so disappointed with myself that I was just so unconfident, so stupid for thinking I should go in the first place! I didn’t even know what to say! So stupid, what was I thinking!
- My friend goes on a date, she sits there with her coat fastened up, anxious and just smiling. I know that she’s not full to the brim with confidence and so she thinks that it won’t turn out well and might feel she doesn’t want to feel so uncomfortable anyway. She gets home and she’s so disappointed in herself. I say to her…”It’s your fault for being so unconfident, you’re so stupid for thinking that you should go in the first place, you didn’t even know what to say when you got there! You’re so stupid, what were you thinking!”
So, there are two situations above, in both scenarios, one part is with the person telling themselves off or disliking themselves or actually beginning to hate themselves for “the way they are” and the other part is if it happened to a friend of yours and you were saying those same words to them. Do you think that you would talk to your friend like that at all? What bit of that would be ok with you, to talk to a friend like that, when they were already in panic mode and stressed, or were already feeling really bad about themselves being unconfident and uncomfortable putting themselves out there? Are we saying to them that they are right and it is their fault that they are anxious and they need to be shouted at? Are we saying that she is actually stupid to be unconfident and uncomfortable and needs to be shouted at to become more confident and more comfortable? Is that what should happen?
If we don’t think it’s right that we do it to a friend, why are we doing it to ourselves?
What can we imagine that shouting does to someone who is already in a state?
What can we imagine that the inner shouting at yourself does to you when you are already in a state?
Thinking about it, do you think that’s fair? We do hear ourselves say those things to ourselves and it effects us as if someone else said them to us.
What would be nice is kindness in our self talk, a bit of self compassion. We can talk to ourselves with the same kindness as we do to our friends. Even if we make a mistake, we can treat ourselves as we treat others.
This is not about washing over what happened, it’s about not being mean to yourself. We don’t need to do it, but all too often we do. Instead we can accept that we lose our focus sometimes when we get stressed out and don’t need to see ourselves as if we are different to anyone else because actually, lots and lots of people lose their focus when they become stressed (it’s part of being in anxiety) and that’s ok; we don’t need to shout at ourselves for being human, we don’t have to judge ourselves on our high expectations that no-one else expects, as they don’t expect superhuman from us, only we expect that.
We don’t have to go from one end of the spectrum to the other, what’s in the middle?
Taking no responsibility at all<——————————————->expecting to be superhuman
A few examples would be…
It’s ok not to be perfect
I realise no-one expects me to be perfect as they already know they’re not
I realise that if things go wrong or things happen, I don’t actually need to beat myself up, I just need to learn, like everyone else and to know that’s ok
Why am I expecting myself to do more or be more than everyone else; I know my job, I do my job, I take responsibility for what I do and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
So, above are some of the things that can be in the middle; not big criticism, not big lack of responsibility either, just reality. These things don’t give comfort as if whatever happened didn’t happen, but it doesn’t criticise either.
It’s not about beating yourself up because your not super confident and not totally comfortable in new company and unknown circumstances, its about recognising that there are more unconfident people in the world than those with confidence…and that’s ok too.
Let’s be kind to ourselves because being mean to ourselves doesn’t help us in the learning and the progress of accepting who we are and being able to progress into the people we want to grow into.
I’m not talking about putting ourselves first, I’m talking about being equal and including ourselves in the group of people we care about. (please think about this for a moment and realise how important it is)
Being kinder to yourself is the first step, it takes our defences down a little and helps us be more helpful to ourselves rather than be stuck in the cycle of self criticism which isn’t helpful in our personal growth. Try it if you want to, you’ll be surprised!
There are other parts to self compassion too but this isn’t a book, it’s a blog, so I’ll stop there for now.