How practicing self compassion and releasing judgment can reduce stress and anxiety while increasing your productivity and happiness
Have you ever thought about how much we abuse ourselves? What about how often we think, “I should’ve said/done that differently,” or wonder why we did something ridiculously idiotic when we knew better? As someone with high functioning anxiety, I tend to obsess over this stuff, calling myself and idiot or an asshole and proceeding to relive the situation by imagining five other ways it could have gone better.
This really isn’t healthy though, so this past January I made a resolution to practice forgiving myself and others. The latter was a lot easier for me to achieve than the former. It turns out, that like the Pink song, I am my own worst enemy.
I did some research on self-compassion and stumbled across a self-compassion exercise which forced me to compare how I treated myself to how I treated my friends.
I suddenly realized how awful I was to myself and challenged myself to be kinder.
Every time I screwed up, I tried to imagine what I would tell a friend who had made the same mistake. Not only did I find myself discovering good advice for how to remedy the issue in the future, but I also felt better the next day. It was also easier for me to move on from a mistake because if one of my friends was distraught I would say: “Everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes.” Repeating this mantra always made me feel better and helped me move on much faster than I was previously able to do.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s hard to shut the constant replay in my brain off sometimes, but once I’ve worked out a solution for how to solve the problem (or avoid it in the future), I try to tell myself that the replay isn’t productive. Some days it works better than others. I know this will always be a constant battle for me, but I’m getting better at it the more I do it.
Shutting down my mental replay in turn decreases my stress and frees up mental energy to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always been someone who sets their goals too high and easily falls off the wagon because they’re too hard to reach (and subsequently beat myself up for not having the discipline to achieve them), but practicing self-compassion has forced me to do two things: 1) make my goals more realistic and 2) forgive myself for not getting to everything I wanted to get to in any given day.
As a new year begins and I reflect on practicing self-compassion, I’m shocked by the progress I’ve made. Not only am I less stressed and anxious, but I’ve also accomplished more than I think I ever have before because I took the pressure off by telling myself what I would tell a friend: “Follow your dreams, but don’t kill yourself in the process.”
I tell friends to keep their goals simple and achievable, good advice that has encouraged me to rethink how I approach my own goals.
Now my new goals are more vague — such as ‘write more’ instead of ‘write for an hour every day’ — which has helped me stay on track a lot more than giving myself the hard deadlines I had given myself in the past. Subsequently, I have written more this year than I probably ever have before and even finished the first draft of a novel, which I’m currently revising. Telling myself that it was okay to take a few days off from writing made me more motivated because it meant that when I was sitting down to write, I was there because I wanted to be, not because I felt obligated to write.
So, as you join me in sitting down to reflect and make a list of resolutions for the new year, consider practicing self-compassion. In the worse-case scenario, you’ll end up feeling a little better about yourself; in the best-case scenario, you’ll feel like you can take on the world. Win win!
You may also enjoy reading The Most Common Happiness Mistakes and the Secret to Greater Joy, by Sara Fabian