When something happens in your life that didn’t go the way you wanted it to, is your default switch it to beat yourself up, label yourself as a failure and hold on to it as evidence for the future? Or is it to accept the reality of what’s happened, accept your emotions and allow yourself a moment of disappointment before moving on?
Whilst these two scenarios might not seem like they matter, there is a big difference in what happens to our happiness and emotional wellbeing afterwards.
Beating yourself up might seem like the go to switch for a “high performer”, stating that they expect better of themselves, and being kind to yourself might be seen as something only weak people do.
But if improving your own mental health is important, then adopting a more self compassionate approach rather than a self critical approach is better. Here’s why...
It all comes down to the conversations we have to ourselves and whether we choose to talk to ourselves like a critical parent or teacher from our past, or we decide to talk to ourselves like a mentor or best friend would. For most people the default switch is to go straight for blaming and criticising.
Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner constantly criticises you for everything that you do? Or perhaps your parents were never satisfied with anything you accomplished and always had something to say?
We see it all the time on social media, with the constantly negativity from keyboard warriors. Constant criticism damages mental health more than actual physical abuse. Bruises wear off. Negative voices in your head can last forever.
Imagine having someone close to you telling you everyday that you were “useless”, “a failure”, “an idiot” or any other negative comment you want to add. It would hurt, wouldn’t it? If we wouldn’t accept this type of behaviour from a friend or loved one, then why do we talk to ourselves that way? Why is it ok for you to tell yourself how bad you are, if you wouldn’t let someone else say the same thing? Put yourself in a different position for a moment. If a friend had just gone through a difficult time, perhaps their business has just failed, or they’d made a big mistake at work and were beating them selves up about it. What would you do?
You’d probably do some of the following:
Be there to support them.
Tell them that everything was going to be ok.
Try and help them figure out a solution of what to do next.
Get them to see everything in their life to be grateful for.
Help them to see how great they actually are by showing them evidence of all the great things about them.
Tell them it’s ok to be upset an that it’s normal
This is what being compassionate looks like, and to the person experiencing it, it can dramatically change their emotional well-being. Because what is essentially being said when this happens is that “it’s ok, and completely normal to experience these things” and that life isn’t meant to go according to plan all the time. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone showing compassion towards you, you’ll know that a weight can be lifted from your shoulders. The feeling of isolation you once had starts to disappear, and you begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. Yet somehow when we think about being compassionate towards ourselves we see it as self pity, self loathing, or weak.
Being self-compassionate is about talking to yourself as if you were talking to a friend going through a tough time.
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind”
Not only is this important for how we communicate to other people, but even more so for how we communicate with ourselves. You can escape social media, disassociate yourself from negative people, and avoid watching the news. You can’t escape the words you tell yourself.
“Choose compassion over criticism”
3 Ways To Develop Self-Compassion;
Accept that you will make mistakes and that you aren’t perfect. Nobody is and we all have our flaws.
“There is no sense in punishing your future for the mistakes of your past. Forgive yourself, grow from it, and then let it go”
— Melanie Koulouris
2. Have a Growth Mindset People who develop a growth mindset, and view obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn, are shown to be happier and more fulfilled. Conversely people who adopt a fixed mindset believe that their talents and intelligence are fixed, they feel threatened by others success and they do their best to hide their flaws from other people. An example of adopting a growth mindset would be seeing other people’s success and strengths as a source of inspiration instead of seeing it as threat and comparing yourself. For more information on Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset see “Mindset” by Dr Carol Dweck
3. Express Gratitude Comparing ourselves to others can lead us down a slippery slope of negative thoughts and self criticism. By expressing gratitude for what we have in our life right now is a great way of getting rid of those negative thoughts. You can do this by writing down in a journal 3 things you’re grateful for each day. By doing so early in the morning it will set your mind on the right path for the day ahead.