Lighten Up... Pull Back On The Stick!
I recently had the opportunity of attending a seminar on self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff of Texas University at Austin, spoke about the research that she has done on self-compassion. It really has some interesting findings.
The three major components of compassion are:
1) Kindness - loving
2) Mindfulness - being present in the moment
3) Common Humanity - connecting with all other suffering
In order to have compassion for others, we must be willing to notice their suffering, make no judgments, feel concerned, and be able to take on their perspective.
But what about having compassion for ourselves? Dr. Neff talked about our tendency to listen to our inner critical voice, and hold ourselves to a higher standard than we would for others. Our expectations are often different, and our judgement is usually more critical. Many people think that this is our way of motivating ourselves to be a bigger and better person. This often leads to "The Unholy Trinity" of personalizing our problems, isolating ourselves, and ruminating on negative thoughts. If you really stop and think about it, if we did to others what we do to ourselves, we'd most likely end up with very few friends
The real eye opening information came when she talked about how constantly being critical of ourselves activates our threat response system. Being self-critical triggers an increase in cortisol and adrenaline within ourselves, and keeps us in a constant state of threat and fear. Essentially, we are creating a threat to our own self-concept. This is counter productive if you're trying to create change within yourself. We can only heal when we are in a relaxed and calm state.
So the next time that you make a mistake or don't live up to your own expectations, think twice before you beat yourself up over the issue. Have a little compassion for yourself... and pull back on the stick!