Reflections at 40 – Self-compassion – 29/40

To celebrate turning 40, I’ve challenged myself to blog for each of the 40 days leading into my birthday. This is post number 29. You can read all the posts here.

My second book, Practical Perfection was written for people who hold themselves to ridiculously high standards, and find those high standards are holding them back because they lead to:

  • Constant overwhelm
  • Burnout
  • Feeling like they are a hamster on the wheel, running their little hearts out all the time, but never actually getting anywhere.

When I started writing it, I didn’t know what the punch line was – the big idea that would pull it all together. It only emerged somewhere between draft 5 and 30. (I’m not even joking about getting to draft 30.)

And the punch line was this:

While you might think the opposite of perfectionism is …

  • Lowering your standards
  • Imperfection
  • Anarchy

It’s actually self-compassion.

A foreign concept to those with high expectations of themselves because … doesn’t self-compassion equal ‘letting yourself off the hook’?

Well, no it doesn’t. Not if you use it as it’s intended!

Self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings instead of mercilessly judging and criticising yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings.

Dr Kristin Neff, considered the world authority on the topic, provides the definition above and goes on to define the three elements of self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness vs self-judgement: being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
  2. Common humanity vs isolation: recognising that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.
  3. Mindfulness vs over-identification: taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.

In the ultimate of ironies, I continue to feel frustrated with myself that, despite knowing the above and having written a whole book about it, I still find it difficult to extend self-compassion to myself.

Yes, I find it hard to be self-compassionate about my lack of self-compassion!

But … at least I’m aware of it ?


Photo by John Sting on Unsplash