Ever ruminate over something you said, which you could have said better? Or beat yourself up over how you could have dealt with a situation differently?
Do you tell yourself you should be further ahead than you are? Be more confident/quick-witted/have the body of a 20 year-old when in reality you’re 44?*
*I appreciate the last one might just be me…
Well, it sounds like you need to practice self-compassion.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is the practice of extending compassion and kindness to yourself in instances of perceived inadequacies, failure or general suffering.
It’s talking to yourself kindly and being more mindful of your inner voice.
Self-compassion means talking to ourselves in a way that we would to a friend.
Are you your own worst critic?
There is absolutely no way I would talk to a friend in the same way, I talk to myself. It would be cruel, hurtful and I would have no friends left.
I’m not analysing their every move and criticising everything they do. I’m not listening to every word they say questioning whether or not they used the right terminology or phrasing. Neither am I listening to them talk about things that have gone wrong and thinking, well you cocked that up again…
But for some reason, we think its ok to beat ourselves up and give ourselves a really hard time. And it’s ridiculous.
Understanding the difference between bad decision making and being a bad person
There is a massive difference between making a bad decision and being a bad person.
I for one, have a tendency to confuse the two. I can literally take one bad incident, apply it to the whole of my life and tell myself I have a character defect.
Yet if my friend had made a mistake, I wouldn’t automatically think, you’re a terrible person who sucks at life. You know the whole person and all their good points. You understand they’re human and things happen. In those instances, I want to make my friend feel better and reassure them they’re doing ok.
However, I can spend hours ruminating over my choice of words and criticising myself for getting them wrong. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
Self-compassion doesn’t mean overlooking your mistakes and not taking responsibility for things. It’s not a way of shrugging your shoulders and acting like things haven’t happened or ignoring someone’s feelings. It means recognising those mistakes, dealing with them, then building a big old bridge and getting over it.
Learn to love yourself
I remember in my single days reading a lot about the importance of loving yourself before getting into a relationship and it’s so true.
The reality is if you treat yourself like sh*t; then how can you expect someone else to come along and treat you better? You’re telling yourself continually that you don’t deserve love.
This is why self-compassion is so important.
It’s not just romantic relationships but all areas of life: family, friendships, work etc.
I sometimes look back at things that have happened in my life and think why did you let that happen? I had no idea what boundaries were, never mind know how to set them.
However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself when looking back at the past. I didn’t have the tools then to be able to deal with certain situations, and to a degree, we need these things to happen to in order to grow.
So how do you start practising self-compassion?
- Recognise in yourself that you deserve better.
- Think of areas or issues that you give yourself a hard time over and write down how you would approach the same situation with a friend. Would you use the same language? Would you be kinder?
- Change your inner voice to the one you would use to speak to a friend.
- Appreciate your successes as well as situations that don’t go your way.
- Remember, it’s not always about you… Didn’t get the job? It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible interviewee; it just means there was someone who was a better fit. Someone doesn’t like you as much as you like them? It doesn’t mean you’re a deeply unattractive person; they just don’t feel the same way and that’s ok. It happens and it’s not personal.
- Appreciate that change is incremental. We don’t simply become better humans: we evolve and grow. Stop giving yourself such a hard time.
It’s all about the journey, not the destination
I often think we have strong ideas on the type of person we’d like to be or think we should be and then get cross with ourselves when we fail those expectations.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. So don’t give yourself a hard time because you’re not yet the perfect you. Be kind, pick yourself up and start again.
Tomorrow is a new day.