How to Foster Self-Compassion - Sasha High MDSep 15, 2020
We recently started our very first group coaching program. It runs every Friday and I have to tell you - I am absolutely loving it. I mean, I love what I do every single day. I get so much reward from the work we do with patients, I feel like I have the best job in the world, but I might love this even more. It is so powerful to bring together a bunch of women who all want to grow and invest in themselves. But anyway, I bring this up because in the last two weeks, a topic that has come up a lot is that of self-compassion. And the question arose - how does one foster self-compassion? So I’ve been mulling over this for the past little while and decided that’s what I want to share with you in this post.
How do you foster self-compassion? And what does this have to do with weight loss? EVERYTHING.
Let’s start with what self-compassion means. It means being kind and understanding toward yourself. Why is it needed? Well, because all too often, the way we talk to ourselves is neither kind nor understanding. We have this harsh inner voice (inner critic) that tells us some variation of the “I’m not good enough” story:
- “I don’t measure up”
- “I’m a failure”
- “I’m an imposter and people are going to figure out that I’m no good”
- “I’m not attractive”
- “My life sucks”
This self-talk will produce feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy and a whole host of other negative emotions - and these feelings will influence our actions: Pulling us toward self-defeating behaviours like over-eating, procrastinating, wasting time, distracting ourselves, isolating ourselves, not engaging in life the way we want to… and in this really fascinating, sort of messed up way, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of never really measuring up in life.
Our brains are good at beating us up. In fact, of the 12-60,000 thoughts humans have each day, 80% of them are negative. So the unmanaged mind will find ALL THE THINGS to criticize and berate and tear down. I’ve talked about this before when it comes to body satisfaction - many people think: Well, when I lose when then I’ll love my body. But if you have a brain that picks apart your body, you will still have a brain that picks apart your body even after you’ve lost weight.
So this is where you have a choice. You can choose to let your inner critic go wild and keep beating you up, or you can decide “you know what, these thoughts are not producing anything positive in my life” and start to actively decide what story you want to tell yourself. Sure, these thoughts may still pop into your mind (because a lot of thoughts will pop into our heads on autopilot), but you just won’t give them any more power of you (instead they’ll just be like background noise and you’ll choose thoughts that are going to empower you to live the life you want).
Here are 3 steps to foster self-compassion to get you started.
#1. Practice forgiveness.
You need to forgive yourself. You need to recognize that you have made mistakes and you’re not perfect. And then you need to give yourself the gift of forgiveness. This is a choice. What I suggest is look at your life and consider - what am I still holding against myself from my past? What have I not been able to get over and what am I still judging myself for? Take a close look. And then actively choose to forgive.
Along with this is recognizing that your value and your worth are not based on your performance at work, or how much money you make, or what size clothing you wear. You don’t need any of that to be worthy of love.
#2. Be a kind self-parent
When we’re kids, we have parents to protect us, comfort us and encourage us. Some parents do that better than others. But as adults, we actually have to learn to parent ourselves. So think about what kind of parent you want to be - do you want to be the harsh disciplinarian, who’s always angry and condemning, or do you want to be the parent who affirms and encourages and demonstrates unconditional love? Show yourself the compassion and love that you would show to your child or best friend.
#3. Have a growth mindset
There are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset will tell you that when you face a challenge, you can’t do it. And if you have a failure, you are a failure. A fixed mindset is usually linked with a number of limiting beliefs that will hold you back. When it comes to your weight, those beliefs might be: “I can never stick to an eating plan.” or “I can’t lose weight”. A fixed mindset is also very focused on results - “I need to lose 50 lbs” or “I have to get to my goal weight or I won’t be happy.” But a growth mindset will view mistakes as opportunities to grow, and will focus on the process instead of the end product. A growth mindset will celebrate the daily actions that take you in the direction you want to go: incorporating physical activity, choosing healthy foods, managing urges, caring for your health. So when you face a setback, a little hiccup in the road, look at it objectively with a non-judgmental stance and consider how you can improve and grow from it, instead of letting the setback derail you.
You will better enable yourself to succeed in life by being kind to yourself than you will be beating yourself up. And the bottom line is that self-compassion is a choice. Managing your mind is a choice. You can decide how you want to speak to yourself and choose words that are empowering rather than belittling. xo