Happy weekend everyone!
I hope you all had an amazing summer and made yourselves some beautiful memories.
Here are some of mine…
Now, if you’re ready to kick your health & wellness journey up a gear, today’s article about Self-compassion (SC) is a must-read.
So what exactly is it?
How will it help with your transformation?
And how can you practice it daily?
To put it simply, the notion of compassion originated from Buddhist teaching and it is defined by one's ability to accept that suffering, failures, flaws, and imperfections are a part of the human condition. We live on a planet of mistakes, refinement, and evolution so if you’re expecting perfection from yourself and others you’re most probably living in a state of constant disappointment - not the most fun way to be! By rejecting your imperfections you’re rejecting being human (a perfectly imperfect being). This, in turn, can lead to self-criticism, shame, guilt and self-limiting behaviours such as procrastination, binge eating, people pleasing and so on.
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” - Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person.
Compassion reminds us that it’s human to screw up and urges us to view our flaws more objectively. Research shows that people who have high levels of SC have better mental health, better relationships, higher motivation, take more responsibility for themselves, and have less depression, anxiety, stress, and perfectionism. Interested in any of the above? If yes, read on.
Kristin Neff, Ph.D., the queen of research on SC, identified three interconnected elements that one needs to embody when practicing SC:
involves being warm and understating toward ourselves instead of berating ourselves or judging harshly.
involves recognising that suffering, pain, challenges and personal inadequacy are all part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone. Not one person on this planet has a perfect life.
involves the ability to pause and accept what is, in the moment, without judgment.
Why are these elements important?
Imagine you’ve just started your health journey and everything is going well. You’re making self-honouring choices by eating a whole food diet, prioritising sleep, movement, and other things that move you closer towards your health goals. But one day life happened and you overslept, meaning you didn’t have time to exercise or make a nourishing breakfast for yourself; instead you grabbed a muffin and a coffee on your way to work. At lunch you went to full-on ‘screw it’ mode and opted for a pizza and a coke, and after coming home you overindulged on ice cream while watching Netflix to comfort yourself.
One slip up in the morning led to a whole host of very counterproductive behaviours - I know I exaggerated a bit but you get my point. When we make choices that prevent us from reaching our highest potential we often turn immediately to self-criticism and judgment, which might start sounding like this: “What’s wrong with me?”, “I shouldn’t have eaten that”, and then it quickly amplifies to “I’m a bad person”, and then perhaps ends with this “Screw it! I like my food and I like my sofa no point sticking with the wellness plan, it’s way too hard, maybe next month” - Ouch!
When you allow your internal self-criticism to have a starring role in your day you're sabotaging any chances for growth. Research has shown that judgment, shame, and criticism is not a motivator and more often than not leads to procrastination and unwillingness to re-engage in healthy behaviours after failure.
What if you practiced SC instead?
Next time you find yourself reaching for food even though you are not physically hungry, ask yourself: What am I feeling? Why am I trying to soothe myself? What emotion is there? Name the emotion.
What if you met yourself with kindness instead of beating yourself up about your choices, limitations, or mistakes? Next time you make a mistake or find hard to accept something about yourself, start to become aware of your inner voice - What do you say to yourself? How is the tone of your voice? Write down a few of the statements and then ask yourself - Are these statements true? If not write a new script and read it often.
For example, I wrote myself a note which I keep with me. I find it very helpful when I get caught up in a moment and are not feeling my best.
We will make mistakes and get it wrong sometimes. It is okay, we are human and capable of learning from our failures. This is what challenges us and helps us grow. Without these moments of defeat, we aren’t able to progress, get better, or reach our fullest potential. Give yourself permission to attempt again… and fail forward.
As a final note, I just want to stress that SC does not mean we give ourselves a pass to be lazy, eat pizza and watch Netflix all day. In contrast, it asks us to show up fully for ourselves even when we don’t feel like it. SC brings awareness to our actions, to our feelings, it brings acceptance of what is, and then gives us the motivation to change the behaviours and patterns that don't serve us in the long term. As Neff writes:
“Caring parents don’t constantly feed their children candy just because the kid loves candy. Being nurturing toward those we care about means sometimes saying no.” In fact, “Self-compassion is not the same as being easy on ourselves. It’s a way of nurturing ourselves so that we can reach our full potential.”
For more information and lots of great resources on self-compassion, check out Dr. Kristin Neff's website: http://self-compassion.org/
Self-compassion is giving me the strength to be comfortable with uncomfortable.
To your greatness,
Izabela Misiuk, MSc, PHC
The Health & Wellness Coach
P.S. If you're ready to stop the dieting cycle for good and make peace with food and your body, I'm here to help.
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