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The Power Of Self-Compassion

How Loving Yourself Removes Roadblocks And Fuels Happiness

The practice of loving yourself is a powerful antidote to psychological barriers that hold you back. Getty

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.—Stephen King

February, known as the month of love, has become a commercial bonanza with $20 billion spent on Valentine’s Day celebrations in 2019. According to an eMediHealth survey of 2,200 people from all walks of life, 71.5% didn’t feel the need to live up to the hype and were confident about the flowers, candy and Valentine cards they plan to send to their main squeeze. A total of 62% said they would not replace chocolates and candy with healthy goodies. And 58.5% said it’s more romantic to go out to eat than to have a personalized meal at home. So it sounds like people want to celebrate their love for one another in full tradition.

But what about you? While February is a time to remember the importance of love and compassion toward others, it’s also a time to include yourself as well.We’ve been taught that self-love is selfish and self-sacrifice is a virtue. If you’re like people who kick themselves around for their slip-ups and shortcomings, you probably have a deep belief that negative treatment can help you perform better and advance your career. Or you might worry that giving yourself too much kind leeway might turn you into a total slacker. Modern psychology says nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s the other way around. It’s selfish not to love yourself, and self-judgment builds barriers to career advancement. Only as you cultivate the right attitude toward yourself will you have the right attitude toward success. Negative self-judgments actually reduce job performance and increase stress, whereas self-compassion—the loving-kindness, supportive treatment you give to yourself during job challenges, personal shortcomings and career setbacks—is a more powerful stress-resilient tool.

Put Down Your Gavel

Chances are, you have a kick-butt voice inside that bludgeons you with criticism and tells you how worthless, selfish, dumb or bad you are. It never rests and snatches more airplay from the inner voice that tells you how great you really are. You wouldn’t dream of treating a loved one the way you treat yourself: calling yourself names, pelting yourself for the smallest human slip-ups, disbelieving in yourself enough to give up on your goals. When you’re feeling sad, in pain or grieving, harsh words such as, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” or “There are people worse off than you,” or “Get a grip!” can actually worsen your distress. But talking yourself off the ledge with a compassionate voice in a calm, comforting tone helps you cope as if you’re applying salve to a wound. Today In: Leadership

You can’t help forming judgments; that’s how you make sense of the world. In its own ironic way, your judgment tries to help you weather career threats with its kick-butt treatment. Much like the hard-ass drill sergeant who doesn’t want to see a soldier’s head blown off in combat, your judge pumps up the volume when you stumble so you don’t fall short of your career goals. But it has the opposite effect.

The good news is you don’t have to let self-judgment hold you back. You can cultivate more self-compassion, stop career barriers cold in their tracks and amp up your job performance. After you have a setback, self-condemnation often barges in. But the real career blocker is the condemnation, not the setback. When you remove the second layer of condemnation and substitute compassion, you can see the real barrier more clearly and feel more at ease dealing with it. That’s why it’s important to be gentle and supportive with yourself when you’re under the gun. So start wanting only the best for yourself in everything you do and be willing to catch yourself when you fall just like you would for a best friend.

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Hard Evidence For Self-Compassion

Studies show that when you substitute self-compassion for self-judgment, you foster positive change in just about anything you do. Researchers examined self-compassion in the laboratory and found that when you’re hard on yourself, it’s more difficult to bounce back after a setback, and you’re more prone to anxiety and depression. But when you replace negative judgments with self-compassion, you recover more quickly. If you don’t have self-compassion, no worries; you can develop it. After an eight-week program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (composed of yoga, meditation, and relaxation exercises), 90% of participants increased their level of self-compassion.

Talking Yourself Off The Ledge

Coming down hard on yourself in a crisis, after a failure or in the aftermath of stressors such as a job loss, divorce or diagnosis of a serious illness reduces your chances of rebounding. Conversely, empathy for yourself after a letdown motivates you to get back in the saddle. So try substituting loving-kindness and self-compassion for self-judgment and talk yourself off the ledge instead of allowing your judgment to encourage you to jump. Throw yourself a thumbs-up every time you finish a project, reach a successful milestone or accomplish a goal at work. Self-soothing pep talks and supportive words are beneficial in high-pressured situations such as job interviews, performing in front of your peers, competing in a sports event, testifying in a court case and so on. So whether you’re dealing with a big crisis or small hassles, a kind, nurturing voice spares you a lot of stress, calms you down and carries you through to your career goals.

Be Kinder To Yourself

Watch how often you berate yourself, call yourself names or shame yourself. Stand up to impossible standards and harsh judgments instead of attacking yourself. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and see them for what they are: habits, old behavior patterns or just plain mistakes that all of us make.

When you’re more loving to yourself and accept your limitations with compassion, you cut your stress in half and double your career success. Then you’re dealing only with the stressful experience, not the added negative feelings from self-judgment. Put away your gavel and when your inner judge overshadows you, amp up your compassionate side and let it airlift you to untold heights of career productivity and success. The eMediHealth survey found that 11% of the participants were pleased with the idea of being their own valentine, and 2% were excited about it. And 54.5% said they would be okay spending Valentine’s Day alone. So whether you dine out by yourself or with your main squeeze or prepare a special meal solo, remember to send some of that loving-kindness your way.

Now, give yourself a valentine! Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Bryan Robinson

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