Self-compassion. An odd term, perhaps, but a necessary one. We are too often willing to show compassion for others, but reluctant to express the same compassion for ourselves. We readily confuse self-compassion with a “woe is me” attitude, license to indulge in a pity party. But it’s not that at all.
Self-compassion is simply having the same caring and respectful regard for whatever is going on in your life as you would for someone else’s challenges.
So, let’s say that through this pandemic, you’ve gained weight, or abandoned your exercise routine. Now that the world is slowly emerging – in fits and starts, granted, but emerging – from our enforced life-hiatus, you’re eager to get back on a better path for yourself.
How does self-compassion help you succeed at your new and better path?
You decide to embark on a weight-loss program. You’ll count calories, skip dessert and cut back on the vino. Day 1, you succeed at all three. You glow, victorious. Day 2, you forget to count the calories but skip dessert and wine. Sigh.
Day 3, you count calories, groan, soothe yourself with a cupcake and a righteous glass of wine. You feel miserable. Day 4, you’ve given up entirely. What the heck, you’re obviously a failure.
Wrong. You’re not a failure, you simply ignored the Three Golden Rules of Self-Compassion.
You forgot to count your calories. You’re human, it happens. Another day, you soothed yourself by ignoring your self-determined plan. Again, you’re human. Instead of thinking of yourself as a failure, consider these events as missteps, not mistakes. A single step off the path. No big deal, because all it takes is another single step to get back on the path.
We do ourselves more harm by maligning ourselves than we ever do with the actual “mistake.”
Whether you stuck by one item on your plan or all of them, celebrate those you did stick with. Celebrating means awarding yourself gold stars, or smiling at yourself in the mirror “Way to go” or however else you let your mind/body/heart/spirit know that you’re on the right track. Let go of what didn’t happen according to plan and appreciate what did.
Having acknowledged that you made a misstep, which qualifies you as human, celebrated whatever you did right, however large or small, it’s time to move on. How?
Take a deep breath and tell yourself “I can do this.”
What triggered your misstep? How can you either eliminate the trigger or substitute something other than food when you get triggered?
Start over again – as often as you need to. Just like when babies fall down while learning to walk, they simply get up and start over again. No fuss, no muss.
After a lifetime of working as a nanny, housekeeper and cook to various families, all the while raising her own three children, Man Kaur took up running in her 90s. Imagine how many times she must have had to recover, recalibrate and restart given her age, her bouts in the hospital with gallstones and the osteoporosis she suffers from.
Yet she did, time and time again. With that, she kept pursuing her avowed passion as a competitive runner. At 103, she took the gold at the 2019 World Masters Athletics Championships in her age category for shot put, javelin, 60-meter dash and 200-meter run. Truly amazing.
Self-compassion will greatly support the success of whatever your cherished goal as long as you remember: missteps, not mistakes. Celebrate your victories and to recover, recalibrate and restart as needed.
What are some of the things you most get down on yourself for? Have you started to set goals for yourself as the pandemic (hopefully) recedes? If so what? Please share below!