We are often much harder on ourselves than other people are. A harsh self-view effects all areas of life from the way you see the work that you do, to the way that you see yourself in all of your relationships.
Let’s pretend we can take our own self-talk and self-treatment and bundle it up into a neat little gift box. Now let’s pretend to give that box to someone we really care about. Would you be ashamed to give that box away to someone you love? Would they be appalled by the contents inside? Would the words and behaviors inside feel like a real gift or an insult?
We aim to follow that golden rule of doing unto others what we would like them to do unto us. But for the most part, whether we realize it or like it or not, we tend to do unto others as we do unto ourselves. When you treat yourself miserably, that shows out to others and they feel miserable too.
Are You Giving Yourself a Beating?
At some point in the past, I entered a stage in my life in which I learned something very important about myself that changed the way I thought about everything that I did.
I noticed that days felt rough. Even though they were not necessarily rough days, they still felt rough to me. I really had to look back and dig to figure out what it was that was making me feel like every day was such a strain to get through. By the end of some days, I felt like I had been fighting a battle all day. The question was, “Who am I fighting against?”.
After speaking with someone whom I trust in the behavioral field I realized that I was fighting against myself!
I thought I was giving myself pep talks each day. What I was really doing was beating myself up day after day. Then I realized that the voice that I was using against myself was a combination of the voices of negative people that had affected me in the past. I then learned the need and the importance of practicing self-compassion. What a revelation that was to me!
What Is Self-Compassion?
I had never really thought about self-compassion before. It sounded like such a fluffy phrase. At first, I wanted to dismiss it and say to myself, “Ok. So I just have to be a little bit nicer to myself.” But then I decided to look up the word compassion to really understand what it means. Here’s what the Merriam-Webster dictionary has to say:
: a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.
: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it
When I first read this I thought to myself, “Do I really seem that pitiful?”. I wasn’t sick or in any current danger or trouble. Nor was I in any distress! Had I been giving off some kind of pity vibes or something?
But then I decided to do a bit of digging on the term self-compassion and came up with something that made a lot more applicable sense for my life. This came from the wonderful collaborative works of Wikipedia. The contributors of Wikipedia got the information from the work of Dr. Kristen Neff, who does research on Self-compassion and wrote a book on the subject:
Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components — self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
• Self-kindness: Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
• Common humanity: Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience.
• Mindfulness: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to one’s negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. Conversely, mindfulness requires that one not be “over-identified” with mental or emotional phenomena, so that one suffers aversive reactions. This latter type of response involves narrowly focusing and ruminating on one’s negative emotions.
I know that was a mouthful but it can really help you to put things into perspective so that you can find the balance between truly improving yourself vs beating yourself up.
Becoming aware of things like this in your life is an important step toward becoming a more happy, healthy and fulfilled person.
I came across this very interesting short 3-minute video created by the Dove company called Real Beauty Sketches. As the short synopsis under the video states: “Real Beauty Sketches explores the gap between how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves. Each woman is the subject of two portraits drawn by FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora: one based on her own description, and the other using a stranger’s observations. The results are surprising…”