Why forgiving yourself is the most important gift to give yourself these holidays."When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives," Kristin Neff.
By Sophie Scott
As the year draws to a close, many of us are focused on what we did well this year.
But some of us will criticise ourselves when we feel we have fallen short of our expectations.
Instead of doing that, I would suggest what we need to do is to integrate a healthy dose of self-compassion into our thoughts.
What is 'self-compassion' exactly?
According to Dr Kristin Neff, it's about 'motivating yourself with kindness.'
Neff is an Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, at the University of Texas at Austin.
She has pioneered much of the scientific research into self-compassion.
Dr Neff uses the analogy of a sports coach when she describes the practice.
Imagine a coach who yelled at his students, berating them about their performance.
Contrast that with a coach who is caring, considerate and compassionate.
Which coach is going to be more successful?
And which inner-coach do you have?
She says the key is, instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself, how is my inner critic or inner coach trying to help me.
Neff suggests cultivating an inner voice that mimics how you would speak to a close friend.
If your close friend failed or made a mistake, would you criticise them or instead would you put an arm around them, talk them through what happened and tell them it's going to be ok?
Watch Neff's Ted talk and see her explain the concepts of self-compassion and self kindness. http://self-compassion.org/videos/
Why self-compassion matters:
"What self-compassion does is make it OK to fail," Dr Neff said.
And that's not easy in our success driven society.
But ironically, according to Neff, fear of failure is one of the biggest reasons we don't succeed or do as well as we would like to.
Cultivating a supportive inner coach helps yourself to do your best.
Neff says that doesn't mean you shouldn't give yourself some gentle constructive criticism.
In fact, she said constructive criticism is an important part of what psychology experts call 'a growth mindset.'
Growth mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.
After decades of research on achievement, she has found a simple idea that makes all the difference.
"Growth mindset" according to Dweck is the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems.
Watch her Ted talk here:(https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve#t-353084)
But self-compassion doesn't always come easily, particularly to women, who can often be more focussed on caring for others’ needs.
Neff says it can feel selfish to care for yourself and some of us feel they almost need permission to be self supportive.
"But if you show self-compassion, you are much less likely to burn-out and you will have more energy and resources to other others as well as yourself," she says.
You can test how self-compassionate you are on Dr Neff's website.
Now through a lens of self-compassion and with a considerate inner-critic,
write down the answers to these questions:
In 2017, what accomplishments am I most proud of?
What was my biggest success and why did it make me happy?
What were my biggest disappointments?
What would I tell someone who had a similar experience?
What did I learn about myself in 2017?
What behaviours or habits do I want to leave in 2017?
What behaviours or habits do I want to take into 2018?
Thank you for reading my thoughts on living an authentic life and all your comments.
Sophie Scott is the ABC's medical reporter.
Subscribe to her blog at www.sophiescott.com.au
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