Girls can be pretty rough on each other. We can compete over pretty much anything – things we can win and things we can never win. The big stuff and the little stuf. But, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the bullying we do to ourselves. Lots of us are harsher to ourselves than we would ever be to each other.
Recently I was talking to a friend who just bought her first condo. I knew she was very excited about it, who wouldn’t be? But she kept qualifying this exciting milestone in her life with things like, “but it’s not totally paid off” and “the location is not 100% ideal.” I hated that she wasn’t letting herself relish in this moment! She was being so hard on herself (and her awesome new property!) But I can relate. Another friend of mine got over a very difficult trauma in her life, and has made significant progress moving towards happiness and a life she is proud of, but she continues to only see areas where she thinks she is failing. It’s so hard to see these awesome women not show themselves compassion – but I’m absolutely guilty of the same thing.
Previously I would have jumped to the conclusion that these women needed a self-esteem boost. But the more I’ve read about happiness the more I’ve realized that while self-esteem is great and definitely needed, in many of these situations a lack of self-compassion is the real culprit. Self-compassion can sometimes be as hard to come by as self-esteem – and it’s important we don’t lump or confuse the two.
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor in Human Development at the University of Texas at Austin (http://www.self-compassion.org/) self-compassion does not require us to compare ourselves with other people, feel special (although I hope you do) and above average – meaning you don’t have to compete with others to define your rank. She sees self-compassion is a constant personal quality in which we value and relate to ourselves kindly just because we are human – flaws and all. We “include ourselves in our circle of compassion” that we often reserve for family and close friends. In contrast, self-esteem is generally based on evidence of superior achievement – a direct comparison to others.
The reality is we aren’t perfect, and our lives aren’t perfect, and that is the shared human experience. So even if the condo isn’t perfect and life hasn’t fully rebounded from a hard time it’s important to celebrate victories and not put ourselves down! In fact, Dr. Neff goes on to say that self-criticism undermines our motivation – which we all know isn’t a good thing!
We need to encourage each other to celebrate our own victories – and BE NICE TO OURSELVES! Science says it’s just as important as celebrating the victories of others. And you just can’t argue with science.
Now if only I could take my own advice…
Also, if you have time, give Dr. Neff’s Tedx Talk a quick watch. She provides a very interesting perspective.