Have you ever been frustrated with yourself, unable to see your strengths, focused only on your faults? Have you ever noticed that amazing people who are successful in their fields are often really hard on themselves?
The truth is, we live in a very competitive society and there’s always going to be someone who's better than us at most things. Unfortunately, this then leads to many of us feeling like we’ll never be good enough. There's an inner critic that lives inside most people which blocks our ability to achieve goals, keeping us stuck and unable to achieve our dreams. That’s no way to live! If you are tired of the ups and downs of the comparison game, it might be time to incorporate self-compassion into your perspective. Self-compassion, along with techniques such as mindfulness, can help us rediscover who we are and give us the ability to nurture ourselves to create the lives we want.
Self-compassion helps alleviate the need to be perfect. It also can motivate you to be nicer to yourself when you miss a shot at pickleball, don't play well at golf, or don't do so well on a presentation or a test. By understanding how we all suffer and are perfectly imperfect, we can learn to accept ourselves regardless of whether we do something well or mess it up entirely. Self-judgement and a harsh inner critic hinder our coping skills and inhibit our ability to see the strengths and talents that we have - either on the courts, on the golf course, or in any area of our lives.
As a counselor, I love helping clients discover their strengths and overcome obstacles: helping them learn to be as kind to themselves as they would be to a friend. One of the tools I find helpful for my clients is the Insight Timer app. Insight Timer has excellent activities to help reduce anxiety and improve mindfulness. I also rely on the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, who is a leading pioneer in the self-compassion movement. She has developed several helpful self-compassion practices as detailed in her books on the topic.
Dr. Neff’s “three pillars of self-compassion” provide ways to increase self-awareness and support yourself through difficult times.
The 3 Pillars of Self-Compassion
Pillar #1: Mindfulness and an understanding that everyone suffers. Pillar #2: Focus on the commonalities of humanity by understanding that we are all perfectly imperfect and that everybody you know is also dealing with difficult situations.
Pillar #3: Kindness. Offering kindness to yourself as you would to a friend helps to increase self-worth.
“Self-compassion gives you resources to keep your heart open during really difficult times…and handle the difficulty without being overwhelmed so that you can keep going. It’s a tremendous source of strength.” -Kristen Neff.
I am certified in self-compassion informed psychotherapy and truly believe that the benefits of self-compassion practices can help others in their goals whether it’s for professional or personal relationships, or to improve performance as an athlete. Have you been hard on yourself lately? Maybe it’s time to give self-compassion a try. And remember, you don’t have to do it perfectly.
Tami Sheena is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate supervised by Louise Dreyfus, MA, LPC-S, LMFT-S.