6 CULTIVATING RESILIENCE
Be Mindful is an 8-week program to help students cope with test anxiety.
Resilience and Loving Kindness come in one package the way I see it. When we believe we have tried our best (in this case «sitting an exam») and the result is not what we expected our self-esteem begins to suffer. Connecting resilience to self compassion practices makes sense as we will be addressing a key issue here: to take care of and send love to ourselves.
The definition of compassion is a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them. We seem to forget though that we can show ourselves that same strong feeling of sympathy and wish to help. This is called self-compassion. While our self esteem is boosted most of the time with others showing their admiration and recognition, self-compassion practices can help us pull ourselves back together and make us more resilient. Say for example, you were to show empathy to someone else who has failed by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation, what would you (not) say to them? how can you build up your ability to share their feeling and experience? and in what way would you encourage them to keep trying? As it happens, what is (actually not) funny about this is that we are perfectly prepared to support others when they fail, however, this inner voice abashes us by criticising and diminishing our own achievements.
The proposal is to practice self-love exercises to recover from failure and get back to learning. Instead of the usual self-criticism practice, we can start growing more resilient today by showing empathy and encouragement to ourselves as if to our best friend…
How about «Writing yourself a compassionate letter» to increase your inner strength? Drop yourself a few lines to boost self compassion, imagine you are writing this letter to a dear friend, what kind words would you say to them? One other favourite practice is to Look at that person in the mirror (see #LovingKindness ahead) that you can adapt to this imaginary exercise of talking to «your friend» if they have failed their important examination.
There is no doubt you can actually stop that inner voice that is beating yourself up by sending all those unnecessary messages and start relating to yourself kindly like Dr Kristin Neff puts it. Tell «your friend» that it was worth trying because they are now actually more aware of how much they know and how much they don’t know, that they mustn’t give up just because their speaking exam was «disastrous», you can say that practice makes perfect and they need to try again, you can invite them to go celebrate those parts they did pass, you can help «your friend» set up a plan for the next exam submission dates, or you can help them take perspective, after all it is just an exam!
You can also hug»your friend» and tell them they will still be your friend even if they never become bilingual … we often seem to live with a sense of not being good enough and feel the need to compete, outperform others, achieve more, be perfect … and we don’t stop to consider whether our self-critical and competitive attitude is actually helping us achieve these goals or whether it might actually be standing in our way. Self-compassion actually leads to increase productivity once we have managed to decrease stress.