Without self criticism as a motivator to achieving our goals, people worry they will end up a blob on the couch with a tub of ice cream in one hand and the remote in the other spiraling deeper and deeper into self-indulgence. But science tells us a different story.
Research has found that self compassion is much more effective than self-criticism as a motivator to achieving our goals.
Many people confuse self-compassion with self-indulgence and letting ourselves off the hook but there is a big difference.
Self compassion supports our desire to thrive and is what motivates healthy changes in our lives.
Self compassion (unlike self indulgence) embraces healthy boundaries in order to break maladaptive habits and behaviors that cause us to suffer in the long term.
Self criticism on the other hand comes from a place of being inadequate and abnormal.
When we are self critical our threat defense system is activated in our body.
The hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released and we go into what is called the fight or flight reaction.
This reaction becomes harmful when it is activated daily in non-life threatening situations because it taxes our body and mind unnecessarily.
Reasons Why Self Compassion Trumps Self-Criticism
Self compassion creates more personal responsibility and motivation to repair past mistakes.
It is linked to wellbeing by reducing negative mind-states such as anxiety, depression, maladaptive perfectionism, shame, and suicidality (Zessin, Dickhauser & Garbadee, 2015).
It also increases positive mind-states such as life satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence, optimism and immune function.
Self compassion activates the mammalian care-giving system in our body and helps release oxytocin and opiates which make us feel good.
Other benefits of self-compassion include:
Three Main Components to Keep in Mind when Practicing Self Compassion
1. Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgment
Compassion is the act of being caring and understanding with ourselves instead of overly harsh and judgemental.
By actively soothing and supporting ourselves, we are able to build self-confidence and self-love that will help us show up in life compassion.
Try to listen to that voice inside your head. Is it meaner than a rolling ball of butcher knives? If so, switch the narrative ASAP.
2. Common Humanity vs Isolation
This requires us to see our own experience as part of a larger human experience instead of being isolated and abnormal.
There are times when I am at my very low when I feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with me.
There is a feeling of being flawed, invalid, defective.
During these times, I try to remember that everyone struggles.
I am not an outlier.
Life is imperfect. It does not mean that there is something fundamentally wrong with who I am as a person.
Compassion helps us remember we are not alone in our experiences and helps us to turn down the volume on the overly harsh, isolating, and disempowering voice that creeps up on us in our weakest times..
3. Mindfulness vs Over-identification
This component allows us to be with our painful feelings as they are without over-identifying with them.
Mindfulness embraces failure as part of the human condition and one of our best teachers in life. Failure is the pathway to success.
Over-identification on the other hand internalizes failure. The person starts to believe that they themselves are a failure.
Remembering & Choosing Self-Compassion
By remembering the benefits and three main components of self-compassion, we can start to change the narrative we tell ourselves repeatedly through the day.
We then have the ability to examine if what we are telling ourselves is in alignment with the way we want to feel and live our lives.
When we bring compassion to our mindfulness practice we start to create some space between what our mind thinks and what we believe about ourselves and others.
Once we are aware of how we talk to ourselves, we have a choice. We can choose a more kind, mindful and human approach that helps us create real change while thriving.