Self-Compassion. An Essential Ingredient for Health.
Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. Being compassionate means that you offer understanding and kindness to somebody when they are going through a tough time rather than judging them. When you feel compassion for somebody, you are recognizing their humanity, realizing that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. Having compassion for oneself is no different than having compassion for others. When you practice self-compassion, you tell yourself that you are only human and that everyone stumbles sometimes. You interpret your ‘mistakes’ as mere blips along the path and not as a reflection of your self-worth. This optimistic, positive thinking is affective in achieving long-term health goals as it motivates you to get back on track, and not to dwell on unhealthy past-choices.
In my work, I often meet people who are struggling to reaching their health goals. A common roadblock I’ve identified is a pattern of harsh self-judgement for ‘falling off the bandwagon’. This negative state of thinking perpetuates the self-destructive behaviour of making un-healthy choices and thus lies the roadblock. If somebody were to insult and degrade you for eating a bag of chips, for missing a workout, or having too much to drink, you would naturally feel bad about yourself and not feel motivated to do better. On the flip side, if somebody is consoling, understanding, and compassionate towards you when you ‘fall off the bandwagon’, you’ll feel better and motivated to get back on. We all deserve compassion and thrive off of it. While ‘self constructive-criticism’ can be helpful at times, self criticism is always damaging and unhealthy.
When explaining self-compassion, I like to use the example of how a dog loves its owner unconditionally. Anyone who’s owned a dog knows that they will always love and comfort you, regardless of how thin, wealthy, or successful you are. Having this kind of unconditional love for yourself is a key ingredient in achieving overall health. If you stray off the path of health, tell yourself what you would tell a friend in the same position: “It’s ok, don’t beat yourself up over it, nobody’s perfect. You’ll get right back on track as you always do, tomorrow’s another day.” So next time you fall off the bandwagon, try building yourself back up rather than breaking yourself down and you will be a lot more successful at achieving your health goals for life.