I came down this morning, took one look at my crumb-covered kitchen counter and said out loud, “Oh, God, I am such a messy person.” Do you see what I did there? The kitchen counter was undeniably messy, but I took that one fact and used it to malign my entire personality. In fact, I said – out loud – something I would never, ever say, or even think, about another person.
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And please guess how that made me feel? I felt worthless, incompetent, and overwhelmed. Now I’ve got to clean off the kitchen counter, but also work hard to change a fundamental part of myself so I will stop being a messy person and will therefore be worthy of admiration instead of scorn. That’s a lot to do before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.
This time, unlike most other times, I actually heard myself recognized what I was doing. I also chose a different response than the one I usually fall back on when I realize I’m treating myself too harshly (which is to say to myself, very harshly, “Why are you always beating yourself up? Stop doing that!”) Instead, I took a moment and cleaned off the counter and then sat down at my new clean work environment to think about how I’d like to start treating myself better. I’m just a little tired of living with a nagging, shrew who criticizes my every move.
I found this article in the New York Times to be very helpful in understanding just what my issue is – I lack self-compassion – and why I have it – I worry without harsh self-talk I’ll fall into what I perceive to be my naturally lazy and self-indulgent ways.
That’s not true, of course. Most people do much better work for a supportive boss than a harsh taskmaster. I know from my own life that exercising is a breeze when I’m feeling happy and confident and a joyless slog when I’m working out because I feel like a “fat, lazy pig.”
Self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem, by the way. Self-esteem is based on your own judgment of yourself and, as such, can be too tied to accomplishments. If you feel like you’re on the right track, your self-esteem goes up and if you feel like you’re not accomplishing what you should be, your self-esteem goes down. That can keep you on a perpetual high/low roller-coaster.
Self-compassion, on the other hand, is being a friend to yourself no matter what. It’s the loving voice that says, “I know you don’t feel like exercising right now, but you’ll feel so much better if you do even a little bit.” It’s the soothing words to let you know that trying something that didn’t work out isn’t really a failure, but simply another step closer to your ultimate goal. Self-compassion reminds you that everyone struggles; that struggle is just part of being a human.
When we treat ourselves compassionately, we are less likely to be devastated by setbacks and so we are more likely persevere. We are more resilient. Our stress levels are lower. We are happier and more easily satisfied.
I took this quiz to determine how self-compassionate I am and it told me very gently that I might be a little low and so I’ve resolved to work on this issue. And to be honest, if I fail at everything else I try this year, but end the year treating myself more lovingly, I’ll consider this year to be a big success indeed.
How nicely do you treat yourself during the day? Why not spending some time watching how you treat yourself today and ask yourself if you could benefit from resolving to be just a little bit nicer to yourself in 2017. After all, you’re trying so hard.