WHAT MINDFUL SELF COMPASSION IS NOT
As a follow up of part one «Three Components of Mindful Self Compassion» some aspects need consideration:
- Self pity
- Self indulgence
- Self criticism
- Self care
Self compassion is not Self-pity
Like she explains herself, and I am quoting Ph.D. Kristin Neff here, to be around someone lost in the throes of self-pity is annoying. Self-pity is an egocentric emotion ( «poor me«). It’s not including you in this human experience, not saying everybody suffers. It’s playing victim mode and typically exaggerating the extent of suffering.
Because of the common humanity and mindfulness components, self compassion really keeps it from delving into self-pity and transforms it into something more inclusive and balanced. Most probably the number one reason for why people resist the idea of self compassion.
Self Compassion is not Self-indulgence
Compassion means concern with the alleviation of suffering so when you have self compassion you want to alleviate your own suffering and you want health and well-being for yourself. Self Compassion may be confused with self-indulgence or just giving self pleasure, and the reason we call it self-indulgence and not self-care is because it actually is harming yourself. The confusion would be to think that if I was self compassionate I would be really soft on myself. I would just skip work, stay home, watch TV, eat ice cream all day … when actually, if you skip work and eat ice cream all day you would be harming yourself so if you care about yourself you aren’t going to be self indulgent if that self indulgence would lead to some sort of self harm.
Take this example of compassionate parents, for instance, who care about their child and don’t want them to suffer, their child needs to eat vegetables, go to bed on time, not eat all this sugar…
Self Compassion and Self-criticism
Another confusion that comes up a lot is making excuses when actually, with self compassion, one of the things that happens is that you have greater self clarity. It’s safe to admit your mistakes if you know that you aren’t going to hit yourself at self-criticism. Therefore, saying «I failed, I made a mistake, I did it” gives you incredible emotional safety to own up to your responsibilities.
Research shows when people talk about their greatest weakness or some sort of personal flaws they are a lot less anxious about it, they feel more safe talking about their weaknesses and in fact people who are more self compassionate are more willing to take responsibility for past mistakes than others trying to protect their self esteem. Because when you try to protect your self esteem what you want is to blame others as we saw in part one.
Feeling motivated, not brutalized by the inner critic
Some people really think they need their self criticism to motivate themselves, in some religious traditions they actually did self flagellation as a kind of penance in the spiritual practice. Once again, people may think that if they aren’t self-critical and they aren’t going to grow or change. When in fact, research shows just the opposite, that is, if you’re very self-critical you end up being less motivated.
One reason is because if you’re very self-critical you’re almost inevitably depressed and we all know that depression is not exactly a get-up-and-go mindset. Hate undermines your drive to achieve something and it also undermines your self-confidence, which is incredibly important in success. It also makes you afraid of failing so you often give up trying because if you fail you’re going to be met with this barrage of self-criticism again. The motivational power of self criticism comes from fear whereas self compassion comes from care about yourself, what makes you motivated to try and to achieve your goals is that you want to thrive and be happy and healthy.
Love is a more powerful dynamic than fear
- Research shows that self compassionate people
- have more intrinsic motivation (motivation comes from the inside, feeling a stronger desire to learn and grow the personal standards)
- aim just as high as anyone else they just aren’t as upset by their failure
- shave less fear of failure
- are more willing to take risks
- are more likely to pick themselves up and try again when they do fail.
Caring about yourself translates into healthy behaviors. Studies came out finding that self compassion is strongly linked to well-being: people with more self-compassion are more likely to exercise especially for the right reasons not just to look good to other people but because they want to feel healthy, they stick to their diets, quit smoking, practice safe sex, and visit their doctor regularly. Self compassionate people free up their mental space to take on creative projects, they often have less anxiety, rumination, depression and perfectionism.
Research shows that self compassionate people are happy with their lives, tend to be wiser and more authentic, cope better with stress, show more self-confidence, feel more optimistic, show more curiosity, are more creative.