Criticism leads to shame. Self-compassion leads to action.
So, for example, instead of berating myself for parts of my body that I don't like, I can acknowledge that I work hard and use my body well and that I am a work in progress. It's okay if parts of me are not what I want them to be at all times. That compassionate attitude towards myself allows me to work on what I want to change without shaming me. Shame, after all, just leads to inaction and poorer self-esteem.
"Suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience." --Dr. Kristin Neff
Dr. Neff says the following about self-compassion:
"Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. 'There but for fortune go I.'
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a 'stiff upper lip' mentality, you stop to tell yourself 'this is really difficult right now,' how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, whoever said you were supposed to be perfect?"
If you can acknowledge your shortcomings without harsh judgment, you will have more energy left for changing those shortcomings
It may sound as if compassion toward self is just excusing one's own bad behavior or laziness. Maybe for some people, that's true. But in my experience, most people are overly critical of themselves, and that critical spirit can lead to two crucial outcomes:
1. Self-compassion gives us more energy to change what we don't like about ourselves.
Not only can self-criticism lead to criticism of others, but it may actually prevent us from changing the things that we don't like about ourselves. We only have so much energy, and we use up a lot of that energy in self-criticism. If we can acknowledge our shortcomings without harsh judgment, we will have more energy left for changing those shortcomings.
2. Self-compassion fosters true community.
Self-compassion creates an opportunity for people to be human and still work on themselves. It also allows people to live more authentically in community with other flawed people because they don't feel the need to hide the flawed parts of themselves. And they don't expect others to be perfect, either. Recognizing and being loving towards the flawed parts of yourself allows you to be open and loving to the flawed parts of others, as well.
When we are self-critical, we tend to be other-critical, as well. In other words, being critical of ourselves can lead us to being critical of those around us. And that outward criticism of others prevents the true community that most of us are seeking.
Trade judgment for compassionate observation
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Wishing you all an abundance of resilience, kindness, and love in the new year.
If you are feeling stuck and need to speak to a counselor, Wilson Counseling has a Houston Therapist who can help you make the changes you want to make in your life. You can contact us by phone at 713 - 591- 3612 or via email at Nancy@Wilsoncounseling. org.