You may have heard the term “self-compassion” being used these days, or maybe meditation, mindfulness, self-worth, or grounding. Self-compassion has three components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Dr. Kristin Neff, leading expert on self-compassion, defines it as “extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.”
I have to admit, when I was first learning about these concepts and the tenants of self-compassion, I thought to myself “This is too zen for me! How will this really help people?” As a recovering perfectionist, I was pretty skeptical. Can these ideas really help overcome feelings of inadequacy, guilt over failures, and decrease worry?
Us perfectionists, we’re harsh on ourselves. When we make a mistake, we view it as failure. Self-criticism pushes people in many ways to achieve, but it can also lead to negative thought patterns. Yes, we want to be successful in life and business, but at the end of the day, we’re still human. Part of the human experience involves shortcomings and inadequacies. Being perfect really isn’t all that fun, and honestly experiencing mistakes is how we learn and grow as people.
I think some of the words and vocabulary associated with mindfulness and self-compassion can be off putting. It can also feel overwhelming because a perfectionist will want to practice self-compassion perfectly, which of course isn’t possible. You’re going to slip up and be mean to yourself, and that’s ok. It takes time and patience to learn how to talk to yourself differently. The ideas are really good if you give them a chance! You find yourself asking “Am I good enough? Will I ever be good enough?” I use these concepts in my professional and personal life, so here’s my approach. Let me break it down for you in a more real way.
Only You Can Do You: When you’re comfortable with who you are, you can be free to just be yourself. If you allow your inadequacies to bring you down, that’s where the self judgment and criticism really hit home. You are probably also comparing yourself to others and looking at what they are. Why does it matter what they’re doing? They aren’t living YOUR life. You are unique and your flaws are part of that. At the end of the day, only you can do you, so show the world proudly who you are!
Look at the Big Picture: Don’t get bogged down in every little mistake. Think about the way you talk to yourself when you’ve made an error. Are you keeping the ultimate goal in mind? Do you see the long term benefits of what you’re trying to accomplish? Can you get there despite your shortcomings? Where you are right now is going to lead to where you’re going. Life is an ongoing process that is unfolding before you. If you spend too much time in the details, you’ll miss the big picture.
Would You Say That to a Friend or a Child?: The next time you start beating yourself up, ask “would I word it this way if I was talking to my friend or my child?” If you wouldn’t say it to another person, why would you say it to yourself? Why do you respond differently to yourself when you’re suffering than when your friend is hurting? Don’t confuse these ideas with self pity. Self-compassion aims to help you understand that all people feel pain, that you can be compassionate towards others and yourself, and helps you take a more balanced perspective of situations.
Accept What Is Without Judgment: What if you could accept “what is” instead of focusing on “what is not?” We’re all guilty of it. You want to be better at this, or as good as your friend at that. Accomplishing goals and moving forward is a great thing, but suffering along the way is not. Explore who you are and accept what that means. When you are able to do that, you will use who you are to reach your dreams.
Redefine Perfect: What is perfect anyway? Perfect to me probably means something different than it means to you. And in my opinion, perfect can be boring. People want to see a human side to you in order to connect with you, and with that comes a bit of vulnerability. What if you could redefine perfect as being your authentic self, flaws and all? How liberating and empowering would that be?!
Trust: At the end of our internship a few years back, my supervisor gave all the students a rock with a word that described us. In fact, the picture above is of mine! My rock said “TRUST” and she spoke about my ability to trust in my clients, in the therapeutic process, and in myself. Sometimes we face setbacks, sometimes we flat out fail. How can you know that you are good enough when failure is staring you in the face? You have to trust in yourself.
If you are looking to discover who you are, how to talk to yourself, or how to feel “good enough,” call me for a free phone consultation (832) 827-3288. I am a therapist located in the Clear Lake area of Houston, Tx. I love helping people let go of criticisms and judgments to live healthier lives and recognize their value. If this is something you are looking for, I hope you’ll consider working with me.