Self Compassion 2

In my last column, I wrote about the practice of “self – compassion” as a way to motivate yourself to better choices and habits. The idea is to cultivate a kindly way to look at and respond to one’s suffering and the often flawed decisions and actions that come from that place.

Look at where you punish yourself instead of taking care of yourself. Do you deny yourself enjoyment because you have to wait until all your work is done? The big secret is that all the work will never be done.

For example, we may decide that we want to eat healthier food. Yet at the end of the day, the bag of chips is right there, and before we know it, we’ve downed a few handfuls.

How would self -compassion approach that kind of choice?

Let’s look at three different aspects of learning self -compassion.

The first is forgiveness. Often when we act against our own best interests, our response is to berate ourselves. We take a nasty tone and think things like “I have no self-discipline. I always go to the easiest thing,” or similar judgmental responses.

Forgiveness of ourselves looks at where the suffering comes from – are we really tired at day’s end? Have we deprived ourselves of food or enough water so we jump to something quickly?  What is going on with us that is troubling?

Then when we’ve made a poor choice, let it go. Start fresh and stop obsessing!

Here’s where practice comes in.

It can be tempting to go the “why bother” route. We say to ourselves,  “I’ve already blown it by eating the wrong thing, or not exercising yesterday”, or however we have let ourselves down. So I may as well quit trying. Why bother?

The work is to practice thinking differently. Don’t go to why bother.  Instead practice looking at the positive. I went all day without eating off my plan. So, one mistake. For the rest of the evening I’ll pay attention to how I feel and take care of myself.

Notice when you’re doing well and congratulate yourself. Give yourself credit.

This leads to framing the conversation.

I’m talking about the inner conversation we have with ourselves. What kind of tone do you take with yourself?

Look at where you punish yourself instead of taking care of yourself. Do you deny yourself enjoyment because you have to wait until all your work is done? The big secret is that all the work will never be done.

In this moment, practice some kindness. Notice when you need a break.

Focus on the positive side.

For many of my clients looking at the positive seems “unrealistic” or not true.

But a constant stream of negative thoughts and judgments is just as false.

Think of yourself as you would a friend who is working hard. Would you criticize her for not doing more? I doubt it. You would extend the benefit of the doubt and help her appreciate steps she is taking so that she can find the energy to do more.

That kind of “re-framing” also helps support the changes you want to make.

The three aspects of learning self -compassion are forgiveness, practice and re-framing your inner conversation.

Best to you as you look at the good work you’re doing!

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