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The Gift of Self-Compassion

The Gift of Self-Compassion
Photo by Giulia Bertelli / Unsplash

I've been reading two books this month on groundedness and self-compassion. Over and over these books have challenged my established notions and mindset of work, motivation, and personal growth.

I've spent the past 10 years (at least) working hard, being hard on myself, and "never being satisfied". A big part of my personal motivation was criticizing my effort and results under the cover of concepts like "it's the journey that matters". The problem was that I kept tossing extra mental and emotional weight on my metaphorical pack then saying it still wasn't enough.

Take this entry from my (forthcoming) annual review... in Self-Compassion I learned a practice called the three chair scenario:

In one chair is the conscious me, one is the critical me, and the other is the compassionate me. Role-play each character and observe what comes out. How does the critical me affect the conscious me? Do I ever let the compassionate me speak (to myself)? Why can't I give myself the benefit of the doubt that I give others?

The Practice of Groundedness cites several studies showing that self-compassion leads to better performance than self-criticism. The judgment leads to shame or guilt, which keeps you trapped in an undesirable situation, both mentally and physically. We're not talking about disregarding self-discipline, but joining it with self-compassion instead of self-judgement.

At the beginning (where I am) it's a tough balance to strike. I've conditioned myself to believe and feel the only path to success is discipline combined with criticism - without it I'd get soft and unproductive. But one of my most difficult lessons of 2021 is learning that isn't true.