Hey! Go easy, would ya? You’re not an asshole! You’re just human.
Our delicate self-worth is constantly under siege. By…guess who? Us!
There’s always someone smarter, prettier, better, you name it. We compare uncontrollably, and we engage incessantly in a barrage of self-judgment and criticism. And now, more than ever, we are drowning in antidepressant drugs just to cope with the insecurities of life. Our constant striving takes its toll mentally and physically, increasing stress and substance abuse.
The quest for self-confidence through self-esteem leads to quite the opposite. It’s a trap contingent on success at the expense of others and dependent on the world outside: on peer approval, acceptance, and physical beauty. The search ensnares pursuers into patterns of self-absorption, self-righteousness, prejudice, inconsiderate behavior, and so on. It even leads to bullying—a sense of feeling special, superior, and better-than.
It’s no surprise that researchers have labeled the modern emphasis on self-esteem, a narcissism epidemic. We’re taught that we can’t love others unless we love ourselves, yet we take self-love to an unhealthy and combative extreme. Where are YOU on the NPI (narcissistic personality inventory)?
Instead of trying to protect our fragile egos, how about extending a little self-care and self-compassion once in a while?
Compassion Cultivation Training Week-3 to the rescue! It’s not necessary to be right, better, smarter, or prettier to protect your ego. Self-compassion steps in when self-esteem lets us down to sooth the self-conscious soul.
“…unlike self-esteem, the good feelings of self-compassion do not depend on being special and above average, or on meeting ideal goals. Instead, they come from caring about ourselves—fragile and imperfect yet magnificent as we are.” – Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion researcher, author, professor, and founder of the Mindfulness Self-Compassion Program.
How self-compassionate are you? Take Dr. Neff’s self-compassion test to find out. Self-compassion consists of three key elements:
- Mindfulness – the ability to recognize and relate to disappointments and personal setbacks with care instead of criticism, without judging.
- Common Humanity – framing your struggle within the broader context of our collective experience; you are not uniquely flawed, unworthy, etc; we all suffer and suffering is part of the human condition.
- Self-mentoring – being kind to yourself, remembering and honoring your intention, and encouraging yourself to act in the direction of your most deeply held values and beliefs.
The simple acknowledgment of suffering is an act of self-compassion. And there are other techniques that you can practice to accept the good and the bad that is perfectly self-contained (in every one of us). The evidence-based practices recommended by CCT to cultivate self-compassion include:
- Recognize suffering. Stop and ask yourself, “What am I experiencing right now? Is there any negative self-talk or self-blame going on?” Name the moments you are suffering, even the small ones. Suffering is anything that is ‘other’ than what we want it to be.
- Construct and connect to a compassionate image to awaken the qualities of warmth, wisdom, strength, and love within you as a place of refuge and support.
- Offer the kind of care and attention you would offer to a close friend or loved one!
- Learn to be a friend to yourself! Laugh out loud at your mistakes!
- Respond to negative self-talk with a physical gesture of kindness. Give yourself a hug, put your hand to your heart, to your cheek, or take a deep breath.
- Confront your inner critic with ferocity; “Don’t you talk to my friend like that!”
- Picture and connect with your childhood self in a loving way.
- Mentor yourself through dialogue and letter writing.
- Offer words of loving-kindness and compassion – may I be happy, may I be free from suffering, may I know peace.
- Express gratitude for the good things in your life.
- Write an encouraging letter to yourself from the perspective of a friend or loved one.
Practice! You are the only one who can fill your punchbowl; everyone else sticks in their slurpy straws and sucks out the punch! The practice of self-compassion works even when we think we aren’t succeeding. With each small effort, we’re creating the conditions where compassion can take root, learning to see what’s under the surface and gaining greater mastery.
Self-compassion trumps self-esteem; it enables us to admit and accept that there are both positive and negative aspects of our personalities. Self-compassionate people are happier, healthier, less stressed, and less afraid to fail. In fact, research has shown linkages between compassion and procrastination. People who are self-compassionate are less likely to put off tasks; they tend to be more resilient. So go easy and don’t worry!
You are not an asshole. You’re just gloriously human and spectacularly flawed. Full of anxiety, insecurity, and all manner of doubt. We all are. You can’t be it all, do it all, support everyone, or be the best. It’s not possible, there’s no such thing, and that’s not the point. You can be all of you – the so-called good and the so-called bad. It’s already enough. It’s exactly what you should be. You don’t have to be a savior. There’s no need. You only need to recognize that you are human and that our fragile humanity is cradled in an infinite grace. – Love, Kat