"What's she talking about?"
"This is one of those ridiculous spiritual woo-woo nonsense."
"How can self-compassion be more beneficial than self-esteem."
These were some of the thoughts flashing through my mind when I was watching Dr. Kristin Neff's talk on self-compassion.
I had more questions,
How can this soft, warm and fuzzy thing be more important than self-esteem?
Doesn't self-compassion mean lowering our standards, letting ourselves off the hook and saying goodbye to our lofty goals and ambitions?
Doesn't self compassion cultivate a passive mindset, encourage self-pity and weakness and foster a dull, stagnant and boring life?
Interestingly though, Dr. Neff touched upon some of the questions I had in her talk and while I was still skeptical, a curious part of me wanted to learn more about self-compassion.
And I did and what I learned was not only eye-opening but also life changing.
All through my life, I have always let my inner critical voice run havoc without second thought because I believed all those thoughts to be true.
- I am stupid.
- I am ugly.
I am socially awkward and boring.
- I am weak.
- I am a loser.
- I am a fraud.
Not surprisingly, I suffered from low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
Interestingly enough, whenever I experienced success, I would never appreciate it, rejoice or feel proud.
I believed that my success was because of a random stroke of luck, a weird coincidence, a divine intervention or that it was such a minor accomplishment that anyone could have done it.
The moment I experienced a failure though was different.
My inner critical voice would immediately swoop in and waste no time to mock at my low self-esteem, lack of confidence and low self-worth.
I failed translated into 'I am a failure.'
Even though I was extremely harsh on myself, the thought of self-compassion never occurred to me.
Why would it?
After all, I needed to be tough on myself because that was the only way I could improve myself and become better.
Before I started learning about personal growth and transformation, I believed that the critical inner voice was always correct and while I somewhat knew about compassion, I thought it was something you practiced towards others and NOT yourself.
I realized the importance of self-compassion when I heard the words, "treat yourself as you'd treat a good friend."
This sounded reasonable and made sense.
As Dr. Neff was gently peeling off the layers of resistance I had towards self-compassion, I understood that self-compassion is like a mother's love towards a child:
accepting him for who he is, being there for him, deeply listening to his worries and struggles without any judgement giving him permission to fail and still encouraging the child to work hard, challenging him to dream big, offering words of encouragement during tough times and rooting for his success.
Being a loving mother doesn't mean the child gets his way every time, a strong mother knows how to be gentle yet be firm, how to set healthy boundaries and cultivate a strong sense of self-worth, responsibility and resilience.
Ever since I started practicing self-compassion, the results have been astounding.
I have lost weight, I am eating healthy, I am stretching past the comfort zone and I am working on challenging projects - things which were unimaginable for me just a few years back.
Not that any of my goals are easier now, it's just that self-compassion allows space for temporary setbacks and failures and rather than wallowing in self-pity or engaging in harsh self-criticism.
Self-compassion has allowed me to celebrate mini wins, cultivate resilience, learn from my failures and go after my goals and dreams without being too attached to the end result.
I want to enjoy the journey NOT just the destination.
I want to relish the progress and NOT be obsessed with perfection.
I want to struggle, be challenged and thoroughly tested along the way and NO longer want success handed to me on a platter.
And I credit self-compassion for helping me cultivate this mindset because now I know my worth is NOT tied to a thing or money or a degree certificate or a medal.
I've realized that I don't need anyone's approval to feel worthy, respected and loved because I know I am enough.
Thank you Dr. Neff.