Live each moment fully and be kinder to yourself: this is how the harmonious formula of combining the power of mindfulness with self-compassion is approached, which is known as full kindness or kindfulness. This achieves greater self-acceptance, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves relationships. That makes you feel freer to pursue your own goals with full satisfaction.
Throughout my years as a therapist, I have learned the harm of disliking oneself. It is like a permanent shadow that influences, and to what extent, the only life you have. Changing yourself is inherent in our global culture, yet the message is: “Start liking yourself, appreciate the person you already are, and be kind to yourself.” When you have to work really hard to get your own approval, you chain yourself to that need.
Think about everything you do or everything you endure to become the person you would like to be. And now imagine that you could like the person you already are. Wouldn’t that be a liberation? Wouldn’t that allow you to make your life choices freely? That does not mean that you will never change again, but you will have a different reason for doing so: perhaps the satisfaction of a job well done, for example.
WHY DO WE CRITICIZE OURSELVES SO MUCH?
It seems as if all of us have burned into the habit of self-criticism. Some of the leading psychologists have noticed. According to Sigmund Freud, all of us have a part of the mind that is unnecessarily critical. He called it superego. That part can make you feel bad about anything the career you’ve chosen, the partner you have, your inability to find a partner, the huge piece of chocolate cake you just ate, or that thought. that you just had.
Albert Ellis, father of Emotional Behavioral Therapy, paid attention to the many irrational beliefs that make life difficult for us. Of these, the most common is the idea that “I have to impress the people who are important to me, and if I don’t, it will be terrible.” This idea is irrational because we cannot impress everyone all the time. And the people who are important to us prefer to feel connected with us than impressed by us.
Carl Rogers, who could be described as the father of therapy, said that we must meet conditions before we can believe ourselves to be of value. He called them “conditions of worth.” Thus, self-compassion can help you to analyze these more complicated conditions and to keep only those that are useful. Perhaps you will not be able to impress the critic in your head and silence him, but through self-pity you can begin to free yourself, to be kinder to yourself.
Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and one of the leading advocates of self-pity, suggests that we may be so harsh, even cruel when talking to ourselves themselves because all that happens inside our head. In other words, there is no one outside of ourselves to whom we feel ashamed to say such things and who asks us to stop.
HAVE COMPASSION FOR OURSELVES
One way to start working in this direction is to try to soften the tone of voice with which we speak to ourselves. Many of us, when we criticize ourselves, we speak very harshly. In fact, if we spoke that way to anyone, we would be more than embarrassed. If you criticize yourself with a very harsh internal tone of voice (and you may find that it is very harsh when you pay attention to it), try to stop for a moment and say the same thing again, but in a softer tone. Taking that pause and softening the tone changes the way you address yourself. By changing the tone, you will see how your experience will change.
So, a healthy, self-compassionate attitude is to accept yourself just as a true friend would (one who would sit with you, if necessary, for a firm but constructive conversation) and, from there, look ahead.
Accepting the other completely is a previous step for the necessary changes to take place. With self-compassion we offer that acceptance to ourselves. Your starting point (and your arrival point) is to become friends with the person you already are, with all your strengths, weaknesses and weaknesses. In reality, we are all critical. Even though you manage to become that “perfect” person that you think you should be, you will continue to criticize yourself. You will not be able to impress the critic in your head and silence him. That’s why self-compassion is helpful and needed. In addition, self-compassion creates the right environment for self-acceptance to flourish.
Abraham Maslow, whose work on the needs of the human being was enormously influential in the field of psychology, believed that acceptance, especially of those areas in which we feel weak or useless, is a vital step in becoming an emotional person. matures and to develop the potential of each one.
ACCEPT THAT WE ARE AS WE ARE
Imagine that you are a bad talker. Everyone seems capable of clever observations except you. If you deny such a thing about yourself, the danger will be that you will never say anything because nothing will seem clever enough. But if you simply accept that you are not a great storyteller, you will feel free to give your opinion (and, almost certainly, you will find that no one will judge your wit).
Acceptance does not mean adopting a passive attitude towards what must be modified, but it is the indispensable step to change what can be changed. You should think of acceptance, not as something that just happens in your life, but as something that you are willing to actively cultivate.
The importance of being compassionate to the person you already are, that, in essence, is an act of acceptance. And accepting how you are does not mean that you will never change, it implies that you will stop dedicating your energy to condemn yourself and you will direct it to live your life in the best possible way. This is the point, to adopt an attitude of friendship towards yourself, to bet on fully living each present. It is strange that even though many people know that mindfulness requires focusing on the present more often, many people have never heard of the value of acceptance in mindfulness.
I often say that acceptance is the other half of mindfulness. In fact, perhaps it is the better half. Mindfulness without acceptance is meaningless. The same can be said of self-pity. We often hear mindfulness described as “awareness,” but it is much more than that: it is awareness with acceptance. For example, you may find that you are anxious, but if you do not accept the presence of anxiety, you will not be able to break free and move on. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of energy telling yourself that you are weak, which will not help you in any way.
Ultimately, being compassionate to yourself is important because it will lead you to accept yourself as you are (and not reject yourself) and that will make you a more real, more beautiful and more useful person.
THE BENEFITS OF KINDFULNESS
Through this technique you will be able to free yourself and obtain many other health benefits, as confirmed by some studies carried out in the last decade:
- Self-compassion reduces depression and anxiety, improves relationships, and makes you feel freer to pursue your own goals. These benefits can lead to an improvement in anyone’s life.
- You put into practice the acceptance of the person you already are, without having to pass tests to become someone “acceptable” to your inner critic.
- If you need changes in your behavior, you will do it from a friendly position with respect to you and not from hostility. Your goal is precisely to adopt a friendly attitude towards yourself and to know that you can count on your own friendship no matter what. So, this is our starting point: adopt an attitude of friendship towards yourself with all the defects that you have the right to have, knowing that, even if you make a huge mistake, you will continue to be a friend.
- Studies show that self-pitying people have a greater tendency to behave well towards others. On this path, adopting the practice of mindfulness, of living with mindfulness, is a powerful antidote to stress and exhaustion.
- It allows us to detect when we are not being self-pitying. Awareness (which is a central aspect of mindfulness) helps us to detect thought patterns that are destructive and to do something about it. With regular practice of this technique, our ability to become aware improves as we practice mindfulness.
- It allows you to befriend the person you are and pay attention to detecting destructive thought patterns that lead you to treat yourself as if you were an enemy. This practice also allows us to open space for self-compassion and to remember the fact that we share defects and virtues with millions of people.
ANOTHER WAY TO END STRESS
With the practice of kindfulness, you will live calmer and more fully, keeping the three most frequent causes of stress and exhaustion at bay:
- Perfectionism thrives on the will to do everything right, even in a world where that is impossible to achieve. As research indicates, perfectionists are at higher risk for psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. An attitude based on self-pity (rather than perfection) would lower the perfectionist demands to continue to pursue the impossible.
- Harmful attachments, understood as those ideas that you cling to, even if the price is very high, are also a cause of stress and exhaustion. For example, suppose you have an attachment to an image of yourself as a person who can bear whatever life throws at you. If you cling a lot to that image, it is likely that you endure situations (demands at work, at home) that it would be better to leave behind. Self-compassion can help you realize this. In other words, you should be willing to let go of attachments if you really detect that they are harmful to you.
- Living on autopilot, when the demands of one activity add to those of another, can put you under constant stress. Mindfulness not only helps you in particular situations, but in relation to all aspects of your life. If you practice mindfulness, you will stop for a moment to see what is happening and to ask yourself, calmly, if this level of activity at the end of the busy week is good for you or your family. By practicing self-compassion, you can reduce activities so that everyone, including yourself, can enjoy a more relaxed weekend. Self-compassion will allow you to say “no” to continuing to add weight to your back.