As a New Year begins, it seems that many of us look forward to this time to recommit to diet and exercise plans, set new goals, and change behaviors. How many of us make these ‘vows’ at the beginning of every year, only to face self-doubt, self-judgment, and disillusionment when we fail to measure up to the changes we want to make? Or, the changes we feel others want us to make?
For as many years as I can remember, I start the year wanting to lose weight and develop a healthy lifestyle, become more organized, create time for volunteerism, and spend more quality time with the family and friends I love. Usually by mid-year, I have not forgotten my goals – they are stuck in my head like a wad of chewed gum. I still want to achieve these goals, it is just that with everything else going on in my life, it seems to be super challenging to get to where I tell myself I want to be. I’ve been doing this dance for many years now. But wait – what if I learned how to be more ACCEPTING of WHO I AM? This brings me to the topic of self-compassion.
The core concept of self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, care, and compassion that you would show to someone you know and care about who is suffering. Self-compassion encourages you to hold your own unique struggles while being kind and caring towards yourself. In order to practice self-compassion, it is important to grow a non-judgmental attitude towards your inadequacies and perceived failures.
Ways to Build Self-Compassion:
– Be Mindful of your Inner Critic
– Engage in Positive Self-Talk
– Express Gratitude
– Practice Forgiveness of Self
– Develop a Resilient Mind Set
The study of self-compassion has become a theory – and there is a growing body of research to support the importance of this practice for mental wellness. In Robin Flanigan’s book “The Kindness Cure” (2017), she points out that self-criticism serves to make one feel stuck and fuels depression and anxiety. Brene Brown, whose numerous New York Times’ bestsellers includes “The Gifts of Imperfection”(2010), states that we are often our own worst critic. By practicing self-compassion, we learn to turn our minds to a non-judgmental and self-compassionate stance. In turn, we are far better able to build resiliency, combat shame, depression, and anxiety, and come to acceptance of our unique self. So my 2020 New Year commitment is self compassion and not beating myself up for the weight I may not lose, and the goals I may fail to attain.
Dr. Michele Lob, Executive Director of DBT Center of Orange County