“As a recovering perfectionist and aspiring good-enoughist…” – Brené Brown
I mentioned in my post about the FIP that one of my tragic flaws is that I fail to give myself credit for the things that I accomplish. It’s a lack of self-compassion for the reality that I am actually human, and if (like me) you were raised and enculturated towards unrealistic archetypes, it’s a difficult habit to cultivate.
Thankfully there are people like Brené Brown who are identifying both this issue as well as identifying methods of dealing with it – not just saying “You should be more self-compassionate” but also talking about the things that get in the way. There are a trio of books, starting with The Gifts of Imperfection, that do a great job of talking about the obstacles – both social and self-created – that can keep us from making the allowances that we really require.
Three Tools for Self-Compassion
Dr. Brown references the work of another researcher, Dr. Kristin Neff, in coming up with a few ways to help build self-compassion:
- Self-Kindness: When we suffer, there can be a tendency to criticize the pain as weakness. Pain is a communication; it’s the way our body and mind tell us that something needs attention. Being kind to yourself means listening to the message, instead of just ignoring it.
- Common Humanity: Something that is often forgotten in the world of FOMO and status updates is that everybody suffers. No matter how much you think someone is together, has it all, couldn’t possibly be unhappy – the fact is, they also have pain that is communicating something that is wrong. You are not alone, you are not the bottom of the heap, you are here in this beautiful messed-up world along with the rest of us.
- Mindfulness: This is almost certainly the most powerful skill of self-compassion. Dr. Neff defines it as “balanced experience of emotions without over-identifying.” That means saying Hmm, yes, it hurts and avoiding the followup voices because I’m not tough enough to take it, I failed again, I don’t know why I ever thought I would be able to do this. The first part is true; everything else is a construction that tries to drown out the message the pain is trying to communicate to you.
Now, I’m not telling you to work on all three of these at once – that can lead into the trap of Oh, no, I’m just no good at self-compassion! I’m so awful I can’t even be nice to myself! Instead, how about just looking at one a day – maybe have a list of the words up on the fridge – and every day, in your 5-Minute Journal, trying to find one example of that principle?
This isn’t a project – it’s a life-long skill that can be developed but that needs to be maintained. I’d love to hear the little moments you find that are successes – or, for that matter, the places where you realize you might have done better.
After all…we’re all in this together.