Want To Change Your Health? Stop Criticising Yourself.
I used to think it was a fluffy concept.
It's taken me a long time to really get it when it comes to self-compassion. To hold myself in kindness when I'm having a hard time rather than judging myself for how I'm falling short.
Now, self-compassion feels like part of who I am. I use it daily.
What is self-compassion?
Many years ago I wanted to help my patients transform their health and change habits permanently. Some patients had a goal to lose weight. Others wanted to better manage their stress and anxiety. Some wanted to change how they ate. And there were some who wanted to achieve a fitness goal like run 10km for the first time.
I found that taking the hard approach wasn't working. Hundreds of patients were telling me that they hadn't stuck with a previous program or diet, had "fallen off the wagon" or were not seeing any results.
I could see that it was becoming a further struggle for them because then they felt like a failure and also felt helpless in changing their life. They felt like they'd never be able to change.
I started researching new ways to help people change their health and wellbeing and discovered Dr Kristin Neff six years ago. And now I'm (SO EXCITED!!!) heading to the US in just over two weeks to learn from her in person! I feel like I'm meeting someone famous. She's had an enormous influence on my work.
Anyway, back to self-compassion. She was the first researcher on self-compassion and her findings were incredible. In her words:
t's a paradox. Wouldn't you think that if we're hard on ourself we're more likely to change?
It doesn't appear to be the case. Since her very first study there's now a boat load of research to support that self-compassion leads to us doing better than being hard on ourself does.
One of her studies found that self-compassion improved academic motivation and self-compassionate individuals were able to see failure as a learning opportunity, and just focus on accomplishing tasks at hand. Think about a time when you were under pressure and the fear of failure caused your ability to focus, think clearly and do your best to go out the window.
She also found that fear of the label of ‘‘failure’’ lead to avoiding situations where one may be perceived as incompetent.
So what does it mean?
Self-compassion leads to more motivation, a decreased fear of failure (plus the anxiety that goes with it), improved ability to focus/perform/work/do your thing AND you're more likely to have a go at learning and trying new things!
So how can you get started with self-compassion? Start paying attention to the voice that is being hard on you:
"I'm not fit enough."
"I not thin enough"
"I'm not keeping up with anything - I'm failing"
"If only i wasn't so lazy" and of course...
"No one will ever love me like this"
Just noticing this voice with a kind curiosity will start to create a change to how you feel and the choices you make.
If you'd like to learn these self-compassion practices, I'll be presenting on this at The Weekend Retreat: The Awakened Heart.
You can also book in with me at The Centre For Mind Body Wellness to explore this in a one to one setting.