The Power of Self-Compassion

Why is it that when we go through a rough patch, we’re always so hard on ourselves?

The more ambitious we are, the more critical we become. The more we care, the more we hurt. 

We listen to that negative voice in our head that tells us we should be smarter, thinner, faster and stronger.

We let this little voice manifest itself into feelings of nervousness, doubt, jealousy and fear.

But why do we listen?

Since quitting my job in July, I’ve gotten to know my own little voice quite well.

Although I’ve enjoyed the challenges accompanying my transition, the job search has been quite arduous and emotionally draining. I’ve battled manipulative contractors, struggled through awkward interviews, watched promising job-offers fall through the cracks and carried out tough (and uncomfortable) negotiations.

I’ve had waxing and waning feelings of self-doubt and anxiety—some days feeling really hopeless and some days feeling really scared.

I’ve learned to combat these “dark days” by remaining focused on my greater vision and spending time doing the things that I love. I’ve been especially luckily to have love and encouragement from my boyfriend, my family and my friends.

But support may not be readily given, and the people around you may not be willing (or able) to provide the advice and reassurance that you need.

If you are not able to stop your own critical thoughts—you may continue down a rabbit hole of fear and self-loathing that can keep you from achieving the very goals and dreams that you’ve always held so dear.

These feelings are made worse when you compare yourself to those who SEEM so confident and accomplished—those who SEEM like they’ve got nothing to lose.

The reality is: everybody’s struggling with something. It may not be outwardly apparent, but I guarantee it’s present in their mind.

Comparisons do nothing but harm you—they do nothing but provide ammo to that little voice in your head.

So how do we avoid feeling inadequate? How do we keep ourselves from standing in our own way?

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  Be kind to others, but most importantly—be kind to yourself. People like being around people who are happy, people who are friendly and people who SMILE! Though we often yearn to receive feedback from others and focus on receiving rewards for our efforts— true success comes when we learn to be kind to ourselves.

Studies around the concept of “self-compassion,” show that people who ease up on themselves and are able to accept their flaws and failures, are healthier and much more productive.

Dr. Neff, UT professor and author of “Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind,” explains that when we are self-critical, our self-worth “bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.” She explains that learning to practice self-compassion allows us to “see ourselves clearly and make needed changes because we care about ourselves and want to reach our full potential.”

Just as we would offer positive advice and support to an upset friend or sibling dealing with a break up or a tough situation at work—we must learn to offer advice and unconditional support to ourselves.

So how do we practice self-compassion? How do we teach ourselves to be kind?

It’s important to pamper yourself and set aside time for activities that YOU enjoy. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending lots of money, or being over-indulgent—it means allowing for respite and relaxation and focusing on activities that bring you true joy.

You can feel stronger, sexier and smarter by simply going for a run, taking a long, hot shower and reading a good book!

Neff suggests writing yourself a letter of support, reminding yourself that nobody’s perfect, and making time for daily affirmations such as “I’m going to be kind to myself in this moment.”

Create solutions where there are problems, and focus on things that YOU can control. Stayclose to people that make you laugh, make time to play and make sure to GET OUTSIDE.

Be strategic with your time, and (I know it’s hard but…) try to avoid spending so much time on social media obsessing over other people’s “perfect” lives.

I’ve learned that self-criticism and negativity mean building your own barriers to success.

That little voice in your head—it’s just doubt talking! Drown it out with self-compassion and don’t EVER let it dictate your direction!

This article originally appeared on The Western Wild: http://thewesternwild.com/why-it-pays-to-be-kind/