It seems nearly impossible to have a conversation, or even write a blog, without mentioning the pandemic at one point or another. Whatever the topic of conversation or whatever is going on with everyone of every age, the pandemic and it’s affects play a major role. Try as I may to skirt this issue, it underlies this week’s topic.
Here's the thing. I have a tendency, like many of us to be self critical. “I should do more, be more…” I do a lot of ‘shoulding’ on myself. Those shoulds get us every time, don’t they?
They say timing is everything. As I was in this funk of being self critical, one of the newsletters from Lea Waters, a positive psychologist I subscribe to came in. She was talking about the very same issue. She was reminding us of the importance of self- compassion, especially in these difficult times. This newsletter put me in mind of Kristin Neff’s work. Neff is one of the leading researchers in self-compassion which is the antidote to self- criticism and downward spiraling.
Here are her 3 steps for developing the practice. The three steps are mindfulness, universality, and kindness.
Let’s look at mindfulness first. As you go about your life, you want to try to be alert to times when you are being self-critical, when you hear that harsh voice in your head. When you notice it, the first thing to do is to recognize the moment of difficulty. Tell yourself what’s going on. “I’m being self-critical here. But I can choose to intervene. This is a chance for me to practice self-compassion.”
The next step is universality. Kristen Neff’s research indicates that it is very powerful at this point to remind ourselves of our shared human condition. Whatever it is that we’re criticizing ourselves for, we can tell ourselves, “I’m not alone. Other people go through this. Whatever has happened, is part of being human.”
The third step is kindness. Here we want to tell ourselves “I can be a good friend to myself in this situation. May I be kind to myself and give myself the compassion I need.”
It is like turning the Golden Rule towards ourselves, do unto ourselves as we would do unto others. Or, Tal Ben Shahar’s Platinum Rule, “do not do unto yourself what you would not do unto others.”
Comments are welcome.