I am following up from my earlier blog post from September 28th, “When Compassion Takes Hold” where I focused on compassion for others. This week, it’s all about compassion for the self, something I learned more about in my Science of Happiness Course that I’m taking through the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley and EdX.org.
Self-compassion, I have been reminded is the act of acting lovingly, warmly, kindly, and accepting of yourself.
“Yadda, yadda, yadda, what a load of bologna!” That’s what the evil critical voice was saying in my head when I wrote that. “Self-accepting my ass. You’ve gotta keep up, lose weight, work harder, be perfect.” Who has time for all that fluff?”
The truth is that it’s not fluff. We would never dream of talking to our friends the way we talk to ourselves (we wouldn’t have any friends left). This kind of self talk is something that many of us battle with and habitually so. We beat ourselves up with feelings of self-doubt, isolation, and insecurity. It can be detrimental to our health, cause anxiety and depression, and keep us away from finding our authentic and loving selves. It can play havoc with our wellbeing and happiness.
You are not alone…
Pioneering researcher Kristen Neff has dedicated the last decade to the study of self-compassion. She has written extensively on the topic and has given talks around the Nation. Her website is filled with videos, resources, and exercises to increase self-compassion. She has also written a book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself (it’s on the top of my reading list). I took the self-compassion quiz on the website and I scored pretty low, which is no surprise to me.
I hear my evil critic railing back, “What? Are you crazy, accept my body? Accept where I am in life? Accept my foibles and my flaws? What, be as loving to myself as I am to my friends and family? What am I going to talk to myself about?”
I’ll tell you what. We are going to talk about loving-kindness.
A couple of months ago, I was at our company meeting, a gathering of over 700 dressbarn associates from our home office and the field. It was an electric and exciting day to celebrate our brand, ourselves, and the women who are our customers. One of our guest speakers was Ashley Graham, not only a plus sized dressbarn model and the face of Layne Bryant’s Cacique lingerie line, she is a well-known advocate for body acceptance. She spoke frankly about self-love and self acceptance and challenged a room of mostly 700 women to try this exercise – take off all your clothes, look in the mirror, and tell yourself “I love you.” She talked about how she just cried and cried when she did it, and realized that she could love herself exactly as she was. It was a powerful moment and a powerful message.
Stuart Smalley was right…
We may have laughed at him, but Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley character on Saturday Night Live was on to something! His daily affirmations of loving-kindness may have made us laugh, but behind it was a good dose of truth.
Today, I ask you to stop and listen to your inner critic the next time you mess up, have a disappointment, or didn’t get something that you expected. Pay attention to the chatter. In learning more about self-compassion, the lack of it I have for myself was pretty eye-opening. What does your chatter sound like? Check out Kristen Neff’s resources listed above.
I leave you with this: What if you changed the conversation? What if you treated yourself with loving kindness? Accept that you have flaws, but also remember that we all do. You also have wonderful and loving qualities too. How about accepting them all!