Your best Friend or Your Worst Enemy – Which one are you?
Anna arrived earlier to the Italian restaurant. After her divorce, she had a rough year, but finally met someone special (online). She decided it was time to meet in person, so they arrange for this date. She waited and waited but her date never showed up. How disappointing!
Three hours later Anna was still in the restaurant, eating a pizza all by herself. She was trying to keep it together. That was not what she expected. She was alone, eating a Margarita pizza thinking how difficult life was for her. She was feeling bad so decided to call her best friend for support.
The conversation went like this:
Anna – “Hey is me Anna, guess what? My date never showed up. Maybe he didn’t like the last picture I sent. I know I put weight on the past month, I shouldn’t share that picture”
Anna’s best friend – “Hey Anna. Well, after divorce you are uglier and fatter than ever, maybe that’s the reason your husband left you. You’re so boring and needy. Ugh!” Wait WHAAAAAAT!?
What kind of best friend will say something that mean?
The twist is in this scenario Anna’s best friend is herself. She never called anyone else, she was having this conversation with herself on her head. Does that mean the answer sounds more realistic now? It probably does.
But why? Why would Anna be so judgmental and rude to herself, when she’ll never behave like that towards her friends?
We learnt to criticize every move we make. You may be familiar with phrases like: I’m too fat, too skinny, to slow, too dumb, too loud, too needy, etc. Whenever we feel inadequate, we attack ourselves to make sure we get done “that thing” we need to do to fix the problem (e.g I’m too fat, I need more exercise). In moments of failure or distress we use a cold and critical self-judgmental attitude for “our own good”.
You may justify being mean to yourself so you “keep yourself in line”. You may feel that If you’re nice to yourself you’ll go off the rails and end up no good somehow.
What if I tell there is another way: to be caring and understanding toward yourself. Instead of thinking there’s something wrong with you, you’ll see failure and difficulties as a common human experience that happens to everyone.
You can have more life satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence and improve your physical and mental health by introducing the practice of Self-compassion.
Today, I practice self-compassion daily. It helped me to create awareness on how harsh and unfair I was being with myself, and to replace self judgement with kindness and joy. Without doubt that mindset shift enabled me to be more productive, confident and changed my relationship with anxiety forever. I became my own best friend.
But let’s be real, I cringed the first time I heard the term self-compassion. It sounded too much like self indulgence and self-pity. I didn’t want to invite a victim mindset and laziness into my life. Self-criticisms it’s what got me where I’m today. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time. However, I kept an open mind, and following my curiosity I cultivated my practice of self-compassion.
If you want to know more check out the following book:
What does self – compassion mean?
You are self-compassionate when you relate to yourself with kindness, awareness of the present moment and acceptance of common humanity. Self-compassion is a concept made popular in North America by Kristin Neff. She defined Self-compassion as “when we suffer, caring for ourselves as we would care for someone we truly love. Self-compassion includes self-kindness, a sense of common humanity and mindfulness.”
What does self compassion look like?
It looks like Anna talking to herself in a kind way.The conversation with herself will go like this:
Anna – “Well, guess what? My date never showed up. Maybe he didn’t like the last picture I sent. I know I put weight on the past month, I shouldn’t have post that picture”
Anna being kind to herself – “Anna, I’m sorry you are feeling so sad. Dating again is difficult. But you got this. You’re beautiful as you are. Maybe this person had an issue or maybe wasn’t the right person for you. I’m sure better chances will came later”
With self-compassion Anna recognized the difficulty of the moment. She accepted her frustration and even sadness (a.k.a common human’s emotions). Most importantly, she related with kindness to her pain. She was able to manage that situation and move on.
What self compassion is not?
Self-compassion is not Self-pity
You don’t want to become that person who is self-absorbed in unhappiness over her own troubles. You may have deep suspicions about being too kind to yourself. Can you be too self-compassionate? You’ll be throwing a Pity Party Poor you?
Self-pity will tell you “poor me”. On the opposite side Self-compassion will tell you “this is difficult and life is hard for everyone”. Self-compassion perspective has the advantage of protecting you from rumination. It allows you to see your own problems without feeling disconnected or isolated from others.
Self-compassion does not make you weak
Self compassion is a reliable source of inner strength. It helps you cultivate resilience. Research showed self compassionate people are better able to deal with difficulties like divorce, trauma and chronic pain.
Self-compassion is not laziness
Every time your mom told you “Eat your veggies” she was being compassionate with you. She was making sure you cultivated good health from a young age. That was not the easy thing to do. Letting you eat all the sweets and junk food you wanted may have been easier but she rather made sure you had a good diet. Self-compassion means you want to be happy and healthy in the long term.
How to build self compassion?
1) Check out Kristin Neff website. It is full with free information and the latest scientific research about the topic of self-compassion
2) Check out the following books
3) Explore the practice of mindfulness meditation. There is many app out there. A couple of options are
You can also use the meditation available on the Kristen Neff or Christopher Germer websites
4) Practice a Self-Compassion exercise with my workbook “How would you treat a friend?”
I became my own best friend thanks to my daily practice of self-compassion. You can do it too. I feel more productive, confident and less anxious than ever. Complete the workbook and share your comments about the self-compassion exercise. We’ll learn together.