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We had hoped for 2021 to be shiny and new.
New resolutions, new goals and new motivation. But inevitably, as we return to work and school holidays come to an end, real-life hits. We get busy, things get hard and we falter.
This is when a little self-compassion goes a long way. But in our society, we’re more comfortable practising compassion towards others than ourselves.
Self-compassion has been linked with reduced anxiety and depression and increased wisdom and emotional intelligence. But pioneer researcher on self-compassion, Dr Kristin Neff, tells us it’s not unusual to stumble and struggle when it comes to practising self-compassion.
There are stigmas that can get in the way of us practising self-compassion. Dr Neff has busted these open.
Self-compassion is weak – nope!
Our society values strong and stoic types. Self-compassion can be misunderstood as being soft and fluffy. But actually, self-compassion, which is concerned with removing suffering, can be a very strong and powerful force.
Self-compassion can be a strong “No” when something is not OK.
Self-compassion is self-pity – nope!
A key component of self-compassion is recognising our shared humanity: we all make mistakes, and we all feel pain and suffering.
On the other hand, self-pity is focused on just the self. Self-compassion also entails mindfulness, to see the event or feeling as it really is without exaggeration or diminishment.
A person lost in self-pity may be inclined to exaggerate their suffering and the uniqueness of their situation.
Self-compassion is self-indulgent – nope!
Self-compassion is concerned with your well-being and the removal of suffering. If you fear that practising self-compassion may cause you to lose all restraint and enter a seven-day Netflix and ice-cream binge, this just isn’t so.
Self-compassion encourages you to look after your well-being (for example by eating your veggies and getting enough sleep).
Self-compassion kills motivation and drive – nope!
“How will I ever achieve anything if I put down the whip?” So many of us use self-criticism to drive our performance. Research shows that self-compassion increases motivation and the likelihood to try new things.
If it’s okay to fail, you are more likely to try, and when you do fail, you are able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.
There are many different exercises for developing and practising self-compassion. A simple place to start is to take a pause when you notice you’re struggling.
Recognise that you are not alone, that we all feel pain and struggle sometimes, and then placing your hand over your heart or on your tummy, say a few loving, soothing words to yourself with the intention of self-compassion.
And this year, let’s try a little tenderness.