THE STRAIGHT UP
Be Kind — To Yourself! Who Is Your Voice of Self-Compassion?
Earlier this year, I talked about being a recovering perfectionist.The problemwith being a perfectionist isn’t wanting things to be a certain way— it’s punishingmyself when I’mnot able to be perfect. If I say or do the wrong thing, I build themistake up inmy head, criticizing every poor decision and completely destroyingmy sense of self-worth. “If I can’t do this one thing right, I’ma total failure who’ll just sit in the corner, eat candy, and never accomplish anything!” For some reason, I think beratingmyself for failure will makeme better. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. When I slip up and fall into that pit of self-torment, I try to remember a book I read by Dr. Kristin Neff, “Self-Compassion: Stop BeatingYourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.”An alternative to beingmean to yourself after amistake, self-compassion is described by Dr. Neff as “an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment.” It’s where self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness meet. Instead of thinking, “I’m such a failure!Why did I think I could do this?” you respond tomistakes with, “It’s alright. Nobody's perfect.You’ll learn and do better next time.”
Self-compassion is amuch better coping mechanism, but the hardest part about self- compassion is that it comes fromyourself. And when you are the onemaking yourself feel worse, it can be so hard to turn that situation around. But I’ve found it's a lot easier to forgivemyself for mymistakes when I remember something good, like the fact that I have a wonderful dog who thinks I’m the best person in the world. When I walk into a room, Buster loses his mind! He jumps out of his skin, so excited to seeme. I could have seen himfiveminutes ago, and he still is like, “Ohmy gosh, you’re back!You’re amazing! I love you!” Buster is a good source of self-compassion for me. He’s a reminder that I am tryingmy best and I do accomplish a lot of good things. Buster is happy and healthy because of me. Even if I say the wrong thing during the day or mess up some task, I can’t possibly be the worst person ever, because I have Buster. I’mnot good at being inmy own head when I feel upset, but I’ve found I can be easier on myself when I imagine Buster is my voice of self-compassion. “Why are you being so hard on yourself?” he says when I start to dwell on amistake. “I think you’re amazing and you’re doing the best you can! I want to spend all day together!” Makingmyself think nice things when I feel like the worst person ever feels hollow, but when I pretend those nice things are coming frommy dog, I’mmore likely to believe them.
After hearing about Buster beingmy voice of self-compassion, a friend of mine decided to try the same thing with her cat. Hiro’s “voice” is pretty different than happy Buster, but whenmy friend is feeling down on herself, imagining her snarky tabby saying, “You are being so ridiculous right now. I like you, so why does anything elsematter?” helps get her out of the funk. If you’re likeme, beating yourself up for every littlemistake, I encourage you to listen to your own voice of self-compassion. Maybe that voice is your own. Maybe it’s someone who supports you, like your mom, your spouse, or your best friend. Or maybe it’s your dog, who would like nothing more than to spend all day together.Whatever you need, just remember to be kind to yourself. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay. I believe in you! –Dr. Leslie Pitner
“I’M NOT GOOD AT BEING IN MY OWN HEAD WHEN I FEEL UPSET, BUT I’VE FOUND I CAN BE EASIER ON MYSELF WHEN I IMAGINE BUSTER IS MY VOICE OF SELF- COMPASSION.”
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