Have you ever found yourself looking in the mirror and thinking, “I should be prettier, a better mother, smarter, funnier, more intelligent, more athletic, more spiritual, more humble, more self-accepting?”

Have you ever found yourself comparing yourself to a coworker or sister or friend or someone you don’t even know, asking yourself, “Am I as good as they are?”

If you’re ever hard on yourself, doubt your potential, feel embarrassed, or guilty, or angry at yourself, you’re not alone. We live in an intensely competitive and individualistic culture in which most of us don’t learn self-compassion when we’re young.  Instead, we’re taught to blame ourselves when we don’t meet our goals.  We have a deep-seated cultural fear of failure, and when things don’t go as we plan, many of us are hard on ourselves.

In a society where we’re taught to put ourselves down and fear our shortcomings, practicing self-compassion is a radical act.

As a life coach, I specialize in supporting high-achievers, people who excel in areas that are important to them and, for the most part, love what they do.  While you might think that successful people would be less hard on themselves, the truth is often the opposite.  Research shows that high-achievers are the most vulnerable to let down and the hardest on themselves.

Practicing self-compassion is about loving yourself no matter what, especially during moments of setback, self-doubt, or emotional pain.  I want to share with you why learning self-compassion is a necessary ingredient for a healthy, happy, whole life and being a courageous leader.

Practicing Self-Compassion Can Make You More Effective.

When asked why they criticize themselves, most people will tell you they believe that they need to be hard on themselves to be motivated.  They fear that if they practice self-compassion, they will become lazy and self-indulgent.  This is a cultural myth!  Dozens of studies confirm that when we put ourselves down, we lose faith in our abilities and are less likely to achieve our goals.  On the other hand, practicing self-compassion gives you the mental clarity to help you form specific plans for achieving your goals. When you believe you are capable, you become more successful.

People with higher levels of self-compassion are more likely to pursue their goals because they love what they do, are motivated to learn and grow, and don’t feel a need to prove themselves.  Because their peace of mind doesn’t depend on their success, self-compassionate people are much less likely to be hard on themselves when don’t meet their goals, pick themselves up more quickly after an upset, and persevere with optimism and courage.

Practicing Self-Compassion Can Make You Happier.

Research shows that people who practice self-compassion have fewer unpleasant emotions such as fear and irritability and are less likely to ruminate about their thoughts.  When self-compassionate people do get upset, it’s less frequent and doesn’t last as long.  Those who practice self-compassion experience higher overall levels of optimism, gratitude, enthusiasm, and happiness.  The highest levels of activation of the left prefrontal cortex—the area of the brain associated with joy and optimism—ever recorded were in Buddhist monks who were masters at meditating on unconditional compassion for all beings, including themselves.

Practicing Self-Compassion Can Improve Your Health.

Self-criticism activates the amygdala, the fight-or-flight system in the brain.  When your body’s stress response is active for a long time, it can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes and increase your risk for anxiety, depression, digestive problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.  Meanwhile, practicing self-compassion can increase your levels of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which is correlated to wound healing, heart health, and weight loss.

Practicing Self-Compassion Can Improve Your Relationships.

Research shows that practicing self-compassion can help you have more satisfying, authentic, and mutually supportive friendships and romantic relationships.  People who have self-compassion tend to be more accepting and respectful of their partner’s point of view, more capable of hearing arguments without becoming critical or defensive, and more able to forgive themselves and learn from their mistakes.  Self-compassion can also ease the challenges of parenting, and when we model self-compassion for our children, we give them an important skill for reaching their dreams now and in the future.

Practicing Self-Compassion Can Sustain You as a Caregiver.

Studies show that caregivers who practice self-compassion are less likely to experience compassion fatigue, are more apt to engage in concrete acts of self-care, and are less apt to get overly stressed or burned out when interacting with patients.  They are stronger, more stable, and more resilient when supporting others because they can comfort themselves and empathize with others’ pain without becoming overwhelmed by it.  They are therefore more likely to feel energized, happy, and grateful for being able to make a difference and to sustain their passion for what they do in the long run.

I hope you see the transformative power of practicing self-compassion.  What is one small step you will take this week towards practicing self-compassion?

Are you a high-achiever who is ready to let go of your fear of failure? Are you ready to delve deeper in practicing self-compassion and courageous leadership? Click here to learn more about confidence coaching and how you can bring more self-compassion into your life.

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