Self Discipline vs. Self Compassion

Most of the clients I work with are very motivated, driven women (even if they don't feel that way at times). They are working towards achieving their goals, and often can be quite hard on themselves in an attempt to get closer to their ideal life. Unfortunately, being "disciplined" sometimes strays into being downright mean. After some discussion, we realize that their inner dialogue is making them more anxious and less able to achieve their goals. My previous blog post discusses the "inner critic" idea and how to be a better coach to yourself. 

What is self-compassion? A great entry on Wikipedia explores different aspects of self-compassion and what it's not:

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Dr. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components - self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.[1]

  • Self-kindness: Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
  • Common humanity: Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience.
  • Mindfulness: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to one's negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.[2] Conversely, mindfulness requires that one not be "over-identified" with mental or emotional phenomena, so that one suffers aversive reactions.[3] This latter type of response involves narrowly focusing and ruminating on one's negative emotions

Many people seem afraid to give up their negative self-talk and be more compassionate to themselves. "I won't have any motivation if I let up on myself" or "I'll just sit around on the couch all day if I'm self-compassionate". If we think about it, this fear makes sense because often when people are pushing themselves too hard or being overly negative towards themselves, they crave rest and less responsibility! In this fear, self-compassion = rest and relaxation. 

But what if self-compassion = living your life according to your values? Let's look at some ways to increase your self-compassion in order to live your best life (and achieve your goals):

  1. Identify How Self-Compassion can Help You.
    • Increased self-compassion decreases stress, increases confidence, and allows you to have more energy to focus on your goals
  2. Determine your Self-Compassion Myths.
    • Myths such as "I won't be motivated if I'm more compassionate with myself" or "I'm not worth self-compassion" can be a huge barrier to building more kindness towards yourself
    • Once you've identified some of your myths, challenge them! Ask questions to break them down. Like, "why will I be less motivated if I'm more compassionate? Is it a given this will happen?" etc. 
  3. Identify thoughts and behaviours that show self-compassion and reward yourself!
    • Notice every time you meet your needs in a healthy, life affirming way. Even just taking a few deep breaths outside on your break at work can be a way of showing self-compassion. 

How do you build self-compassion? How has your journey towards self-compassion evolved so far? Any comments are greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading!

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