What it all boils down to…
As a clinical psychologist and coach, the common thread I see among my clients (and myself for that matter) is this deeply painful belief: “I am not enough.” There can be all kinds of surface beliefs or thoughts, however, below it all, “not-enough-ness” is the root source of most suffering. Somewhere along the way most of us learned that we weren’t “X” enough. Pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, tall enough, successful enough etc…We learned to place our worthiness on becoming more than we already are.
Often times as humans, we think that if we just reach our goals, then and only then, will we be worthy of love, support and admiration. The problem is that if worthiness is not present during your journey, it won’t be there with you at the finish line. Saying: “I will feel good about myself when I lose these last ten pounds” is much less effective than “I accept myself as I am AND I know I would feel amazing if I was closer to my ideal weight.”
Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life
When we choose self-compassion over self-criticism, we choose to empower ourselves and make decisions that honor our worthiness. We know we may not be able to change our environment or our circumstances, but we can control our thinking patterns and the ways we speak to ourselves. So, how can you let go of the maladaptive thought patterns of “conditional worthiness” and raise your self-love vibration to a whole new level? One way to do this is through mindfulness self-compassion.
Self-Compassion for the Win
Mindfulness self-compassion is part of the newest wave of psychotherapy interventions, and the positive outcomes are compelling. Dr. Kristen Neff from the University of Texas, Austin explains: “Self-compassion involves being open to and aware of one’s own suffering, offering kindness and understanding towards oneself, desiring the self’s well-being, taking a nonjudgmental attitude towards one’s inadequacies and failures, and framing one’s own experience in light of the common human experience” (Neff, 2003). Research has shown that mindfulness self-compassion is positively correlated with: higher levels of self-worth, lower rates of self-comparison, and greater emotional resilience.
But How Will I Reach my Goals if I am Kind to Myself?!
There is a common belief that in order to achieve, we must be hard on ourselves and push ourselves to our absolute limits. Pop culture rarely highlights self-compassion as the key to success. However, new research is proving that self-compassion predicts decreased fear of failure, resilience in the face of setbacks, and increased motivation. It is important to note that self-compassion does not deny one’s failures, rather, it seeks to understand one’s suffering and bring self-awareness to pain, while also offering kindness and support. Changing your internal dialogue to kindness instead of critcism does not deny failings; it simply aims to support you in moving through failure in a more productive way.
3 Easy Ways to Incorporate a Daily Dose of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is a way of being towards yourself. New ways of being take time to cultivate. Essentially, the rewiring of your brain to respond to stress with compassion instead of criticism will take time and patience. Remember, be compassionate towards yourself about starting a mindfulness self-compassion practice. Below are three small ways to begin to incorporate this life changing practice into your daily routine:
- Intentionally comfort yourself as you would a dear friend Think of someone you love. Someone you really deeply love, and trust. Now, picture they are struggling or suffering in some way. How do you comfort them? What is your tone of voice? What words do you use? Do you bring them their favorite meal? How do you show up for them? Now, think about the words you use towards yourself when you are struggling. How do you show up for yourself ? Is there a difference between the two? Intentionally learn to comfort yourself as you would comfort your dear friend
- Start a self-compassion journal Take time to write down your daily struggles and notice the ways in which you were or were not self-compassionate in response. The journal entries will consist of fully acknowledging your suffering, connecting your suffering to the experiences of others, and offering yourself kindness and support. The daily practice of writing out self-compassionate language will work to further rewire the brains’ self-critical tendencies.
- Develop a self-compassion mantra A self-compassion mantra is a deeply powerful sentence that is ready to go for the moments when you need it most. Some common mantras include: “May I be kind to myself in this moment; May I be strong and kind to myself; This is a moment of suffering and I know I will get through it.” Use your own words to develop the mantra that truly speaks to you and offers you support in the moments you need it most.
Is mindfulness self-compassion worth incorporating into your life? Psychologists have discovered that increased levels of self-compassion are positively correlated with overall improved well-being, adaptive psychological functioning, and act as a buffer against mental illness. Additionally, research has shown that increased self-compassion leads to increased compassion towards others as well. These benefits are too good to pass up on, so don’t wait until tomorrow. Next time you notice self-criticism, or the dreaded “I am not enough” creeping into your thought pattern, change it out for self-compassion. May you go forth, and be kind to yourself daily. You deserve it.