Self-compassion is often painted in an incorrect light. People think it’s too ooey-gooey. They think that self-compassion is the same thing as letting themselves off the hook. They think it’s complacency and resignation. They think that having self-compassion will stop them from achieving.
To be honest, it drives me crazy when the myths of self-compassion continue to be propagated simply because I know how powerful this work is and how much people can benefit from it!
Real quick, the simplest definition of self-compassion is a form of love and unconditional acceptance of yourself as a human. Your achievements and even your actions do not shake acceptance of yourself as a human. You can practice self-compassion by not liking some actions that you might have taken, but knowing you are still a valuable human in spite of them. It is broken down into three elements; mindfulness (paying attention to the present experience without judgment), kindness (what would you say to a friend), common humanity (acknowledging your experience is part of being human). I also want to include a quick note that self-compassion is different from self-esteem. Self-esteem is (judgmental) and conditional upon achievements and feelings or worthiness. It is unstable because your feelings of self-worth are likely attached to validation which has its ups and downs.
Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion says, “Many people say they are reluctant to be self-compassionate because they’re afraid they would let themselves get away with anything. “I’m stressed out today so to be kind to myself I’ll just watch TV all day and eat a quart of ice cream.” This, however, is self-indulgence rather than self-compassion. Remember that being compassionate to oneself means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long term.” You can read more of this article here. You can listen to 2 podcasts I’ve recorded with her for more as well linked under this section.
When it comes to habits or getting yourself to do something, some people believe that tough love, being highly critical of yourself, harsh-self talk, and shaming can get you to take action. It’s not sustainable and research shows that it actually is not very effective. Self-compassion actually increases motivation (especially to bounce back after a failure) Brené Brown said, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” What’s more, criticism and shaming especially after failure is not very effective (say, if you failed to do your habit). Practicing the elements of self-compassion (mindfulness, kindness, and common humanity) are key to being resilient after a failure- no matter how big (or small).
You can still overcome lack of motivation while holding positive self-regard without conditions and avoiding berating yourself. Self-compassion means accepting that you are lovable and great as you are. (Here’s one of many studies about how self-compassion can help you make progress as it relates to exercise. There are many more across categories of life and habit change).
Getting yourself to rise to the occasion to do a habit may look like considering the long term and big picture which is part of self-compassion. Showing up for yourself IS a form of self-compassion. Again, self-compassion is not letting yourself off the hook; that is self-indulgence. “I’ll just relax and skip this workout.” That’s not self-compassion. Self-compassion is, “I accept myself as a valuable human regardless if I do this workout or not, but I still am committed to doing this workout.”
I don’t know, I could try and argue the point that self-compassion and getting motivated to do a habit aren’t as related as we think. Maybe that’s something else altogether. Self-talk does matter for showing up. Self-talk is a part of self-compassion, but it’s not the same thing at all. I’ll leave that for another day, but writing this article has given me more to think about :)! I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Self-compassion does correlate with how you treat yourself during the workout, after the workout, if you don’t do the workout, (exchange workout or whatever the thing is that you’re doing). Self-compassion does relate to the self-talk involved with doing your workout, but is not a copout for skipping the workout.
I hope I’ve given you something to think about and some resources to learn more if you’re interested!