I feel certain this won’t be the only post about this topic here on my blog, so I’m going to go ahead and set this up as a series. After all, this is a theme that I feel like I’m constantly working to improve, and it’s top of mind for me often. I’m also aware it’s not something that’s easy to fix and then be done with for good. It’s an ongoing thing, to be sure. Some days, I feel like I’m on the right track. Others, I’m totally off the rails.
Being kind to myself is tough.
It’s funny, isn’t it, that we are so much harder on ourselves than we are on friends and loved ones? And that we’re so much harder on ourselves than friends and loved ones are on us? (That’s true for me, at least.)
Sometimes, when I’m really down on myself, Kevin will say, “Hey! Don’t talk about my wife that way.” He says it playfully, but he’s also being very serious, and it does give me pause and help me put things in perspective a bit. I’d never be as hard as I am on myself toward someone I care about. So why this assault on myself?
Apparently, I’m searching for something psychologists have recently labeled “self-compassion.” I found this New York Times article on self-compassion interesting — especially the point it makes about the types of people who tend to find themselves in this lack of self-compassion rut. “People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures…”
I try hard to be a caring friend, wife, and family member — and that’s very important to me — but I’m not great at turning that care back toward myself.
The article goes on to talk about research which shows that the main reason people don’t score higher when it comes to self-compassion is that “they’re afraid of becoming self-indulgent…they believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line.” It also points to culture as a reason, since culture communicates that being hard on yourself — similar to being “so stressed out all the time!” — is the norm.
I think it’s important to stop here to reiterate that my lack of self-compassion isn’t consistent. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows. I’ve certainly gotten better at being kind to and patient with myself in recent years, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to achieve. At times, I’m able to keep my emotions in check and look at things realistically. I’m proud of those times, and feel healthy when I’m able to have that response. Then there are the other times, when my reaction isn’t nearly as positive. I start going down a rabbit hole — sometimes prompted by events, sometimes just by an emotion, I guess — and all of a sudden I feel like I’m just the worst. I’m dumb, I haven’t accomplished enough, I hate my body, I’m lazy, etc. You get the picture. Very positive, uplifting stuff all around. 🙂
Okay, so where to go from here? How can I continue to boost that self-compassion? (Oh, and as a side note, research has shown that higher levels of self-compassion can result in stable feelings of self-worth — so fewer ups and downs, which I’m excited about — and can lower levels of depression and improve overall happiness. In short, self-compassion is certainly worth cultivating.)
I’ll leave things here for now, but am going to do a bit more digging on this idea of self-compassion. Let’s meet back here in a few days to talk more about this, huh? I’ll share what I’ve learned when it comes to increasing levels of self-compassion so I can start putting that kindness into practice in my life — and maybe some of y’all will find it helpful, too.
In the meantime, have any of y’all had success in moving from the “I’m too hard on myself” category to one full of more self-compassion, patience, and kindness? If so, I’d love to hear any tips you have to share!