In The Art of Self-Compassion, I wrote about the positive impact beginning a meditation practice had on my reactivity with others. But I still had a bad habit. As I wrote at the time,
I had a bypass. I would spend my day in kindness and curiosity and then return home to deliver a toxic dose of judgment and criticism to myself. I would unleash the build-up of frustration, anger and sadness through a typical day on myself. My specialty was shame messages. I heard the voice in my head declare “Who do you think you are? You are a failure. Just give up, your time to shine is over.”
My self-critic was still running the show. And when it comes to building new habits and breaking old ones, much of the story is taking place in our heads! The work of Kristin Neff, described below, was instrumental in moving to a more compassionate approach to my own experience and unleashed me to chance habits and feel content.
This fall, Center For Self-Care and Your Mindful Coach are offering The Well-Worn Path: Meditation and Mindfulness for Positive Habit Change, at the Tredyffrin Library, including Tuesday, December 11. Through deep exploration and intentional practice, we can let go of habits we know longer need and cultivate new, supportive habits. You can enjoy a full recording of the third workshop below as well as the guided meditations on iTunes and Soundcloud.
We began our third session with an exploration of the body. When we tense our body, we come in to fight or flight mode, feeling tightness and discomfort. By experimenting with soothing touches, for example, stroking our arm, cupping our face or even giving ourselves a nice hug brings us back in to our bodies “rest and digest” mode. When we are in this state, our mind, body and heart communicate with each other. We have access to our intuition, our wisdom and our morality. Try it out below,
We have a well-worn path that solidifies our existing habits and can make forming new habits a real challenge. Bringing self-compassion to this effort is critical. As James Clear describes, habit building is about identity building.
By seeing ourselves as a reader or a runner or a healthy eater, we can overcome the ups and downs of our normal impulse patterns. By creating an identity as someone who “never skips two days” of a habit, we can be more gentle with ourselves when we don’t meet our own expectations every time. Additionally, it fosters a patience critical to sustainable habit change. Thomas Edison has been said to have described the process of inventing the lightbulb as 1,000 ways not to make a lightbulb before he settled on the one path that worked for him.
Neff’s work on the distinction between self-esteem and self-compassion is instructive. The downside of the self-esteem movement, which did help to reduce some of the most damaging consequences of low self-esteem, is that self-esteem is conditional. When everything is going well, self-esteem supports and sustains. But it has a tendency to abandon us right when we need it (not to mention make us arrogant when we don’t!). As we struggle more, self-esteem drops. Self-compassion, on the other hand, offers a balancing effect, reminding us to recognize our worthiness of love regardless of the outcome.
In order to practice self-compassion, Neff identifies three elements,
- Mindfulness – We need to know when we are being self-critical or judgmental so we know when to apply self-compassion.
- Common Humanity – It is helpful to understand that you are not alone in feeling and thinking this way.
- Self-Kindness – This is the ‘medicine.’ Offering soothing and care for whatever arises.
Have something that you are giving yourself a hard time about? Try the guided practice below and let me know how it goes.
Visit www.center4selfcare.com to see what events we have coming up.
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