Thursday, January 21, 2016

Does Self-Compassion Make You A Wimp?

Even the word self-compassion makes success oriented people with Type A personalities and a side of perfectionism uncomfortable. People tend to associate self-compassion with self-pity, weakness, self-complacency, narcissistic and selfishness.  The world seems to be a place that respects results and not feelings, especially feelings that coddle the individual himself.  Compassion for others is okay and even praiseworthy, but cutting oneself some slack is just not deemed professional or respectable.

However, self-compassion is helpful for long term success and happiness. Moreover, thinking that success or the meeting of a goal will bring you happiness is a fallacy. Compassion can be defined as feeling the suffering of another and wanting to alleviate the pain or improve the situation.  Alleviating pain and improving our situations are considered normal drives. It is when a person admits to suffering that is when the self-compassion becomes wimpy so to say.  If one can take suffering out of the equation, the self-compassion becomes a tool for growth and greater success.

Kristen Neff, a psychotherapist, explains that self-compassion has an inherent element of wisdom. Specifically, the wisdom of realistic expectations of ourselves and our common humanity that teaches us that we are as likely as any one else to have a mistake, misstep, set back or fatigue. When we allow ourselves to be normal, we will ruminate less and take responsibilities in stride. People without this cognitive self-compassion push themselves beyond their limits and are prone to burnout.  Even if we push beyond the burnout, we may meet our goals and have 'success.'  Yet, the success won't necessarily make us happy, and we may even feel a bit empty. Or we may have lost touch with what was our authentic self and replaced it with the extrinsic goals of professional successes and milestones. There is a certain emptiness. For example, first year law students, after three months of the arduous and stressful curriculum, begin to lose the sense of what intrinsically made them happy. They feel disconnected from their inherent self-worth and self-esteem, substituting accomplishments earned through competition and other people's approval in its place.

True self-compassion requires emotional intelligence that brings long term success and better effectiveness in life's many responsibilities. As one becomes comfortable in their own life, they are in the position to connect with others and succeed without riding the train of burnout.

Stay healthy & well,

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