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Self-compassion without selfishness

The top 3 myths that block you from self-compassion

If you haven’t heard of it before, self-compassion is the practice of speaking kindly to ourselves. Self-compassion invites you to offer yourself words of warmth, kindness, and empathy, just as you would good friend. It really comes into its own when you use it during hard times, when you’ve fallen short of your own expectations or when you’ve failed.

It’s the practice I teach most of my clients as a powerful anti-dote to imposter syndrome and harsh self-criticism. When clients adopt it as a habit, they experience a deep transformation in their relationship with themselves.

Interestingly, it’s also something that almost every client I’ve ever worked with has resisted on some level. Some have actively shuddered at the idea of ‘self-kindness’ and responded with “no way am I ever going to do that”.

It’s become clear to me that there are some serious myths around self-kindness many of us buy into unconsciously. That can either be because of someone’s particular upbringing or what society says is true.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury of self-judgement: I’m going to present you with these myths, tell you why they’re so misleading and how they block us from treating ourselves with the care and respect we deserve.

Myth 1: Self-compassion is selfish

You might think that because self-compassion is focused on giving yourself attention, that you’ll become self-centred and self-absorbed. After all, no-one wants to be a narcissist.

The Truth:

Offering ourselves compassion means we can give more to our relationships, because we’re coming from a place of greater security within ourselves. Research shows that self-compassionate people tend to be more caring and supportive in romantic relationships and are more compassionate and forgiving towards others.

Myth 2: Self-compassion is self-indulgent

You might believe that self-compassion means letting yourself off the hook all the time. You might believe you’ll become a lazy slob. Perhaps you’ll never work out, you’ll never ring your Mum and you’ll eat crisps. Lots and lots of crisps.

The Truth:

When you practice self-compassion you grow a healthier relationship with yourself. When you become your own best friend, you encourage yourself in sticking to the habits that will support your success and your well-being. Research shows that self-compassionate people engage in healthier habits like exercise, eating well, drinking less alcohol, and going to the doctor regularly.

Myth 3: self-criticism has got me where I am today

This is a HUGE one that I see all the time.

Many highly successful, driven people have a very loud and domineering inner critic. If that’s you, you might believe that your inner critic has got you where you are. Maybe you recognise criticising yourself isn’t a world of fun but it’s just a necessary evil to motivate you and push yourself that extra mile. You’re scared of losing it because if you do, what will drive you to succeed? If your inner critic goes, your ambition and drive to succeed might go too. It’s far too high a price to pay. Even for peace of mind.

The Truth:

When you give yourself harsh criticism, it triggers the fight/fly/freeze stress response and releases stress hormones such as cortisol into the body.

More stress = less energy, a weakened immune system and a mind that can’t think as clearly or creatively. Performance enhancing? I think not.

When you’re beating yourself to motivate and drive yourself to succeed, you’re effectively taking on the role of the angry parent trying to control and dominate the disobedient child who doesn’t want to do their homework.

Does shouting and breaking the self-esteem of a child mean that they do their homework? Perhaps. Sometimes. But it will be done from a place of fear and obligation.

Contrast that approach with instead using words of encouragement and kindness to the reluctant child. A conversation where the child feels validated, supported and loved. They do what’s asked of them because they feel safe and connected. The child is more likely to their homework, plus they’ll have the benefit of a calm, nervous regulated system that will enhance their performance.

The child can feel excited about the rewards of working towards what they want and feel motivated by what inspires them. They’re freed up to take appropriate risks because they’re not living in fear of what their inner critic will do if they get it wrong. They can feel open, curious and ready to take hold of the opportunities that arise for them.

Far from hindering your success, self-compassion can help you be more successful. It will build your resilience, motivate you to be bold and courageous and leave you with your health and well-being intact.

Ready to tame your inner critic?

If reading this lights a spark in you about what’s possible when you leave your inner-critic-behind, you’re very welcome to book in for my free call. You’ll gain so much clarity on what changes you can create in your future and the first step to take you there.

7 December 2022