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C’Mon Cut Yourself Some Slack

Why are we caring to others but critical of ourselves? This article builds the case for self-compassion and offers five strategies to practice it and be kinder to ourselves, always.

We’re going through something unprecedented and while there are measures in place designed to protect us, the massive changes we’ve had to make in the context of uncertainty are still taking a toll on leaders and their teams.

I’ve been having conversations and doing a lot of listening with…

  • Parents of young children who are juggling work, parenting, and homeschooling. They don’t feel they’re doing a good job on any front.
  • People working in the healthcare sector who haven’t had a day off in weeks. They’re tired, drained and they miss their family time.
  • People who’ve lost their jobs and don’t know what the future holds.
  • Leaders whose business and livelihood are at risk and they are scrambling to keep it all together.
  • People who are worried and feel helpless about vulnerable family members.
  • People who are struggling with isolation, disconnection, screen fatigue, and the pressure to be making the most of their time.
  • Leaders who had ambitious development plans for themselves and their teams this year, but now feel completely stuck and unable to move forward.

 We are our own worst critic

The thread that weaves through some of these conversations is self-judgment. Sentiments like:

I’m failing.

Maybe it’s me?

I’m out of control.

I’m not doing enough.

I should be doing more.

I can’t rest, I’d be letting others down.

I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself, there are people worse off.

Sometimes we’re hanging on to self-limiting beliefs like, “It’s selfish to take time for myself right now”.

Other times we’re denying our feelings, “I should just suck it up and stop pitying myself”.

If we’re in a situation similar to those described above, we’re already experiencing pain and frustration. By judging ourselves harshly, we only make the pain worse.

In the book Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, it says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering however is optional.” In other words, how we interpret, process, and experience pain is our choice.

 The case for self-compassion

To be self-compassionate is not to be self-indulgent or self-centered. A major component of self-compassion is to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with love, care, dignity, and make your well-being a priority.

~ Christopher Dines

The word compassion means to suffer with. To be compassionate is to recognize suffering and have a desire to help in some way. As Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn says in his article on how compassion can build a better company, “Compassion is empathy + action. When we feel compassion for others, we realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.”

If a friend was experiencing one of the challenges above, would you tell them they’re not doing enough? Would you tell them they’re failing, or they should just suck it up? Probably not. If we wouldn’t talk to our friends that way, how is it okay to talk to ourselves that way?

We need to be kinder to ourselves, especially now. We need to recognize that our new reality is tough, we’re figuring it out, and that we’ll make mistakes as we learn. We need to cut ourselves some slack. After all, as Jennifer Louden, bestselling author and personal growth pioneer says, “Grit without self-compassion is just grind.” And there’s only so long a person can function in a state of grind.

 5 practical things we can do to practice self-compassion:

1. Talk to ourselves with the same kindness we’d extend to our friends and loved ones. 

Our day-to-day self-talk can be unkind, unfair, and untrue. If you wrote it down, you’d be shocked at what you tell yourself. Try having gentler more compassionate conversations with yourself. You deserve that.

2. Recognize and name our emotions. Acknowledge they are real.

Make time to be mindful of what you’re feeling. Name it out loud and give yourself permission to feel it fully. If that seems daunting, remember what Austrian poet and novelist, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “No feeling is final.”

3. Tune in to our needs moment by moment and adjust accordingly.

Stressed? Get curious about what you need and why, and then ask yourself what action you can take that would be most helpful.

4. Create opportunities to put ourselves at the front of the line when it comes to self-care. 

Make an immovable appointment with yourself to recharge and replenish. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul and it will give you the resources you need to show up for the rest of your life the way you want to.

5. Be intentional about cutting ourselves some slack and letting things go.

It’s time to let go of perfection, guilt, worry, or other pressures you are putting upon yourself. You are doing the best you can. You might even want to try saying that affirmation out loud to see how it feels

 Closing questions

As you consider the role of self-compassion in your life, I’d like to leave you with a few closing questions:

  • In which ways have you been hard on yourself this week?
  • How could self-compassion have benefited you?
  • What’s one specific way you can be more self-compassionate today?

You don’t have to go it alone

Navigating the complexities of these circumstances can be challenging. If you’re ready for clarity, give yourself the gift of an objective sounding board and start working with a coach.

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