The world’s top mental health professionals are increasingly realizing the importance of being kind to oneself. Self-compassion is, however, not the same as self-esteem.
“The problem with self esteem is that we need to feel better than others to feel good about ourselves,” says Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture Kristin Neff.
What is more important, she goes on to say, is self-compassion, being kind not just to others around you, but to yourself. This means that you treat yourself with the same care and concern that you would with a close friend.
When you don’t meet our weight loss goals, you may feel low and think thoughts like, “I am a failure at this.” Such a way of thinking “judges” instead of “relating”. Instead, what Slims proposes is that you start to relate to yourself with kindness and warmth, and embrace yourself – flaws and all.
Self-compassion has 3 core components:
- Self-kindness: treating yourself with encouragement, gentleness and patience, not harsh and cruel words. This means you stop saying things to yourself you wouldn’t say to people you care about.
- Common humanity: where self-esteem makes you ask: how am I different and special? How am I above average? Common humanity asks you to be part of the shared human experience. When you don’t achieve your weight loss goal a hundred percent, you may think, “Something has gone wrong here. This is abnormal.” You are feeling isolated in your non-achievement, when in fact the truth is that many many others are in the same boat as you are, and this shared experience proves that you are, in fact, just as human as anybody else.
- Mindfulness: Being with what is, in the present moment – acknowledging what you are going through right now is a way of making sure you are self-compassionate. Many a time, you will not even be aware of what you are going through. Especially when it’s your own harsh self-criticism, you may be so totally identified with your role as self-critic that you don’t even realize the pain you are causing yourself.
You may believe that self-criticism is what motivates you and that if you are too kind to yourself, you will end up being self-indulgent and lazy. You will be surprised to know that this is not true. Over the long term, self-criticism undermines your motivation and does not help you.
So what is going on in your body when you are playing the role of self-critic?
When you criticize yourself, you are tapping into your body’s threat defense system, the reptilian brain that tells you to fight or take flight. This, in turn, releases chemicals called adrenaline and cortisol. When the body is constantly producing such stress-inducing chemicals, the result is stress. Over a period of time, the body will shut down to protect itself – and this is why people experience conditions such as fear of failure, or even depression. “* Self-criticism is a double whammy because you are both the attacker and the attacked*” says Neff.
Luckily, there’s another part of our body we can tap into – the mammalian brain. Your body is programmed to respond to things like soft vocalization, which simply means that you treat yourself as someone worthy of love. This releases chemicals like oxytocin and opiates which put us in the optimal mental state to do better.
If you have not met your goal, try and talk to yourself in an understanding and compassionate manner. This will actually show you the way to identify with whatever it is that you are feeling, paving the way to a more engaged or ‘related’ way of setting your goals and working towards them. On a more ‘practical‘ level, revisit parts where you need to focus more. Review the Problem Solving section (particularly the Motivation and Expectation section) revisit your habits with Lifestyle.
If you are feeling a motivation deficit, please remember that this is by no means the end of the road. Many overweight people go through phases where periods of high motivation, strength, and achievement are interspersed with phases where nothing seems to work. Wait for a time when your motivation and strength are at a peak level and try slim.in again.