by Catherine Krame
Self-Compassion: The Only Self Care for Spring!
Science suggests, and experts agree, that the best way to create healthy habits is not through shame, but rather through self-compassion. People who are more self-compassionate are more likely to eat healthier, exercise, and take better care of themselves in general.
How can I have more self-compassion when setting goals for myself?
If we aren’t careful the “New Year, New You” resolutions that we set earlier this year can promote self-critical thinking and even self-loathing. They can very easily be interpreted to mean that we are so flawed that we need a wholesale makeover. To avoid this, first and foremost take a step back and assess where you are right now with fresh eyes in order to adopt a more objective perspective. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, so it is a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate by taking a bird’s eye view to see the bigger picture of your life in totality. From this vantage point you are more likely to be kinder to yourself while contemplating the changes you wish to make. It becomes easier to accept how things are right now with greater self-love when you can see the positives alongside the areas that may need improvement. Primal instincts steer us to focus on the negative, but we can consciously choose to acknowledge what is going well without ignoring the things in our life that need attention. Rather than shaming yourself into “shape”, resolving to be more self-compassionate is the only commitment you actually need to make, as it can be the foundation from which other healthy habits grow.
Why is shame so destructive?
On the other hand, shame as the motivating force for change has the gravitational pull and downward spiral of a black hole. Chris Germer, co-founder of the Center for Mindful Self Compassion, describes shame as a “soul-eating emotion” that feeds on the core of our being, of who we are. Unlike guilt that suggests “I DID something wrong,” shame is an attack on the “self” and is a “self-conscious” emotion that means “I AM wrong.” In a moment of shame, we’re inclined to “go small, go silent, or go away.” After that we may “go on the attack, criticizing ourselves or others.” We may also try to numb ourselves by escaping into unhealthy behaviors, so it’s easy to see that shame is not the fertile ground we need for positive growth. Shame is the most difficult human emotion and therefore simply cannot be the catalyst for sustainable, long term change.
The most important part of intention setting is befriending yourself with kindness as you set your goals. Dan Harris, television anchor and author of “10% Happier” recently shared the following five tips for becoming more self-compassionate with his Good Morning America audience.
Five tips for a healthier relationship with yourself:
1. Accept yourself as you are right now:
Give yourself a break. Accept where you are as the point to move forward from.
2. Be grateful for your body:
You don’t have to love every part of your body but you can be grateful for it. This shift in perspective can allow you to appreciate the fact that it takes you where you need to go, and allows you to do the things you do (even if you have some physical limitations, there is still so much to be grateful for.) When you can appreciate your body (and yourself) in this way you can begin to unhook yourself from the external pressures to look, or be, a certain way.
3. Speak to yourself like a friend:
There seems to be a mass self-harm epidemic happening among us internally. We would never speak to a friend the way many of us speak to ourselves, and if we did – chances are we wouldn’t keep that friend for long. Talking to yourself like a friend is very helpful and empowering. It can sound like this: “You got this.” “We’re good here.” “Everything is fine.” “I’m not judging you.” “This is hard, but you’re not alone. You’re not the first person to experience this.” “Keep going. You can do this.” And when you perceive yourself to fall short of reaching a goal you can say: “It’s okay. You did your best right now, and your best in any given moment is enough.” Or, “Tomorrow is a new day. You can start fresh.”
4. Reflect on and use your past struggles to give you strength:
“If I can get through X, then I can get through this.” “If I can do Y, then I can do this.” “When I did Z, I implemented a clear strategy and I can do the same here.”
Meditation develops the skills and awareness necessary to become more self-compassionate as the foundation for change.
“Self-Compassion holds you accountable without shame.” ~Dan Harris
The fear that many of us have is that we’re going to slide into resignation and inaction, but that’s a complete misunderstanding of what self-compassion is. It is a common misconception that self-compassion is self-indulgent, promotes laziness, and results in a lack of motivation. The research, however, shows that the opposite is in fact true.
Can self-compassion help me stick to my goals?
Science shows that people who are motivated by self-compassion are better able to stick to their goals in the long run, with a higher rate of success over the people who are motivated by shame. Shame is an emotion that leaves you feeling embarrassed, self-conscious, or worse – humiliated and filled with self-loathing. It’s much harder to get back up and persevere if you’re coming from a place of shame and self-loathing.
How can I learn to be more self-compassionate?
Make your commitment to have greater self-compassion and befriend yourself with kindness. Learn more about Mindful Self-Compassion, and join us for an upcoming 8-Week Online Course by registering HERE. Enroll and find out how self-compassion can be the path to greater resilience!