Ah ha! That explains it nicely…

Tree outside a B&B in Wilmington, NC

My friend Nikki posted a link to this recent Lifehacker article “To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem”. It talks about the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion, and sums up in that typically succinct Lifehacker style what I’ve struggled to articulate re: being kinder to yourself doesn’t mean giving up on yourself or weight loss etc. I reckon self-compassion might be a better term for what I’m attempting to practice:

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding—it’s embracing the fact that to err is indeed human. When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego.

I also liked this bit:

“…it’s important to understand what self-compassion is not. While the spirit of self-compassion is to some degree captured in expressions like “give yourself a break” and “cut yourself some slack,” it is decidedly not the same thing as taking yourself off the hook or lowering the bar. You can be self-compassionate while still accepting responsibility for your performance. And you can be self-compassionate while striving for the most challenging goals—the difference lies not in where you want to end up, but in how you think about the ups and downs of your journey.”

The article goes on to say that self-compassion is powerful because it takes your ego out of the equation and, “You can get a realistic sense of your abilities and your actions, and figure out what needs to be done differently next time”.

Interesting stuff. Thanks Nikki!

Update: I hope I’m not freaking anyone out by writing about this stuff lately, but this article really has me thinking. So often I say or think really shitty things about myself, and I don’t find it helpful to look in a mirror and say YOU’RE AWESOME to counter that. But a little compassion, on the other hand, is something I feel I can work on.

37 thoughts on “Ah ha! That explains it nicely…

  1. I like that. Why are we all so hard on ourselves? I’m meaner to myself than I’d ever be to another human being; less understanding, less compassionate, more judgmental – I’m a complete arsehole to myself!

  2. brilliant Shauna. I am sure I speak for all of us who regularly read your blog that anything you feel worth sharing is always worth reading! x

  3. There’s a trend in the therapeutic professions towards cultivating self-compassion these days – it seems to be an evolution of cbt approaches which can seem a bit cold-hearted and robotic in their logic and pragmatism (e.g. that Beck book). I bought a book recently called “the compassionate mind guide to beating overeating”by Kenneth Goss which to be honest was a compulsive purchase which looks quite heavy going and I’ve not read any of it properly yet :-/ From the bits I’ve dipped into it’s about getting you to reflect honestly on habits and behaviours but with a focus on making this process feel safe and hopeful rather than self-castigating and uncomfortable. Your post has reminded me to have a proper read of it!

    • cold-hearted and robotic! yes! i think it was the flash cards that particularly left me cold 😉

      Let us know how you get on with this other book, it sounds interesting!

  4. Thanks for this! Self-compassion is the perfect way to describe it. “Acceptance” to me has connotations of giving up — that probably aren’t fully deserved, but that’s the way language works some times.

    The Beck books were vital to my weight loss journey, but I agree with Emma that they come across quite harsh. I’ve been on the lookout for something that captures most of the same points but in a kinder, gentler way. One contender is The Eating Well Diet. I reviewed it here: http://www.joyweesemoll.com/2011/04/02/book-review-the-eating-well-diet-by-jean-harvey-berino/

  5. I love your most recent posts! I’m not really a woo-woo new age type, but I started meditating a few months ago, and I find it really cool that these same ideas of compassion to myself and others, and non-judgment generally, started bubbling up in my mind without ever having read or thought very much about mindfulness. Since I’ve been following your blog for eons I kind of love it that my experience still resonates so well with what I read here!

    • Your meditation sounds fab Smuth! Kinda cool that the blog still resonates after all this time… must mean we’re both evolving, hehehe! 😉

    • I’m really working toward a non-judgment, myself, and I love the way you put this, Smuth!

      I think what I love most about your post, Shauna (and the Lifehacker one) is that self-compassion gets exactly to the heart of what I’ve been trying to suggest to others lately, to treat oneself as you do the most beloved people in your lives: best friends, siblings, dear children. Because, really, why wouldn’t we put ourselves at the very top of our list of loved ones? We absolutely owe it to ourselves and deserve nothing less!

  6. Wow. It feels cool to be able to have contributed something (even a small something)!!
    What I find too is when I am able to stop beating my self up (sometimes I am better at this than others), I can free up that energy to put towards something more constructive.
    It’s like when I’m not thinking demeaning thoughts about myself, I suddenly have the mental space for more pleasurable thoughts or meditation or formulating a plan.

      • Freeing up space is so important…

        Compassion. It’s hard to have for ourselves. Especially when we feel guilty or at fault. How can we have compassion when the phrase “I did this to myself” runs continuously in our heads. At least it does in mine. Like anything though, it takes time. I have to believe that someday I will get there…

  7. that’s a great way to reframe. I don’t say a lot of negative stuff about myself when I look in the mirror, but rarely do I say anything positive (or over the top like “YOU ARE AMAZING” or whatever) either. I think I may try a bit of that self-compassion stuff, sounds like a GREAT idea to me.

    (you are awesome by the way, even if you don’t say that to yourself in the mirror whilst flexing and blowing air kisses at yourself)

  8. Love this, and I’m trying to learn this for myself.. You can totally be accepting of yourself while acknowledging that you are, in fact, not always awesome. I mean that in general, cuz you are awesome, but yeah. 🙂

  9. Like others have said–I will read anything you write! I think it’s easier to go a little easier on yourself after you have lost some weight initially and proven to yourself that you CAN do it. Your self esteem improves and you have confidence in your ability to lose. Gaining is frustrating for sure and I am mad at myself, but because I lost it and maintained for over a year I know I can do it again and am determined to do it before it becomes more than the current 10 lbs.

  10. Love this!

    I don’t want to say, “You’re Awesome!” to myself either. I want to do awesome things. This is a great way of thinking about it. I think that was what I was trying to say in my Pete Thomas post. The most self-compassionate thing I can do for myself is to go after the things I really want, not settle for what I have and try to accept that. It is important to act in a kind way on the journey, but that shouldn’t mean I can’t move forward.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who found the Beck stuff “harsh and robotic.”

  11. I especially like this phrase: “it is non-evaluative”
    A very short summary of the concept. No judging of yourself, of your actions. No black or pink glasses.

  12. I’m so glad you’ve been writing about this lately Shauna. Its been on my mind a lot and you have a spectacular way of making things make sense! I find that practising self-compassion makes the world a less scary place for me because being ‘wrong’ is no longer such a risk, or such a terrible thing to have happen.
    I have had some words from Jen Lemen’s blog in my mind lately, that she wrote in amongst a bunch of other stuff but that really resonated with me – to see one’s own failings as “honest, necessary episodes on the road to growth”. ( http://jenlemen.com/blog/?p=827 ). To me, thats what self-compassion is about. Its me embracing my imperfections in a gentle way, not punishing myself for them but allowing them to help me grow.
    Of course old habits are easy to slide back into and the self-critical me is never far away at the moment, but it is such a relief that she isn’t in charge 100% of the time anymore. I’m growing! xxx

  13. Not freaked out at all, & completely agree.

    Recently I proposed something to a small group of women on Facebook (an invisible group we made to not BORE the rest of our friends with “I took my multi-vitamin today, SO PROUD!”) and it wound up making me think about just this topic. I challenged all members to post ONE thing each day, for 5 days, that they did for themselves. And it ranged from “went to spinning class!” to “I ate the cookie I REALLY wanted” and, of course, “I took my multi-vitamin today!”

    And everyone liked the way it felt when we listed good things we did FOR ourselves today vs. examples of how well behaved we were today based upon our expectations OF ourselves. So, I’m right there with you. =)

  14. I would like to think of it as the way a good friend might talk to us.
    For example, if we cock up, they might say “oh well, that was understandable, you’ll do it differently next time”. But they give us a dose of “you are awesome” and remind us that what we think may not necessarily be the reality of the situation.
    If a friend talked to me like I have talked to myself, I would sack that friend! (well, would like to think I would!)

    • Exactly, Cilla! I couldn’t agree more. We deserve to treat ourselves as we would our nearest and dearest… because we deserve to BE among them!

  15. Honestly, can anyone actually look in the mirror and say “I’m awesome” without feeling like a total dick?

    Compassion and forgiveness are my top tools when I need to smash down negative thoughts. Why are we so horrible to ourselves?

  16. *Thumbs Up*

    I always enjoy reading your posts <3 Will try to emulate your self-compassion thing. I could sure do with some *nods*

  17. I never really thought about it like that before. Funny how we can be compassionate to others but we fall down when it comes to ourselves. I think I need to practice self compassion more often. Food for thought. 🙂

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