“Convincing ourselves we are better than we are leads to complacency and thinking we are worse than we are leads to defeatism.” Serena Chen
In the healthcare industry we are often hardwired to display compassion to patients and families. However what we often lack is compassion for ourselves, or self-compassion as labeled by psychologists.
A lack of self-compassion can take many different forms; however it is most often obvious in the way you handle failure. If you are like me a failure is often followed by good session of self-doubt, self-pity and usually my wife telling me to get over my self.
The core principle of self-compassion is to treat yourself like you would treat a close friend. I understand I am far from perfect, however when a close friend is confiding in me about a recent failure, I try to be supportive and understanding.
Encouragement is essential. Imagine if you treated your close friends the way you treat yourself after a failure. That would be an uncomfortable conversation, but the point is why do we treat ourselves worse in a failure situation than we would treat someone close to us.
1) Failure is not optional- If you are human (which by reading this I assume you are) you will fail. You have two options when it comes to failure, stagnation or evolution. You can ruminate on the failure and let it hold you back or you can learn from it and move on. I’ll let you guess what path successful people choose.
2) Don’t dwell on the failure- Ok you messed up, fine nothing can derail your attempts at growth than replaying failures in your mind. In the dictionary past is defined as: gone by in time and no longer existing. Your failure happened in the past so by definition it no longer exists. Don’t keep it alive by constantly thinking about it. Sure there may be some ramifications from your failure, but manage those and don’t keep going back to the actual event. Move on.
3) You are your best friend- I know this sounds existential, but you really need to remember this next time you want to reflexively chastise yourself. If you treated your friends like you treated yourself, I would imagine you might have some lonely birthday parties. Talk to your self like you would a friend. This can work magic around how you respond to failure and you might be surprised at the halo effect. Surprisingly, having a little more compassion with yourself will spill over to more compassion with staff, family and friends.
The Beatles sang, “Oh, I get by with a little help from friends.” I think we should all try to get by with a little help from ourselves as well. Try to have a little self-compassion for a change and see how it goes.
Chen, S. (2018) Give yourself a break: The power of self-compassion. Harvard Business Review. pp. 3-9