Choosing self-compassion can change your life. It can be the difference between surviving and thriving, and between isolation and connection.
It boils down to this:
“To accept ourselves with an open heart. To treat ourselves with the same kindness, caring and compassion we would show to a good friend, or even a stranger for that matter. Sadly, however, there’s almost no one whom we treat as badly as ourselves.” (Self-Compassion – The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
I can relate. The voices of perfectionism and self-judgment are loud. I hold myself to ridiculously high expectations. I have great compassion and understanding for those who are struggling, and less for myself.
How does perfectionism rear its ugly head for me? It can be something as insignificant as a typo in my newsletter, or as important as a seemingly innocent remark that impacted a relationship. That one took way too long to work through. “How could I be so thoughtless?” Although I knew that ‘what she heard was not what I meant’, forgiving myself for my piece in it took time. Perfectionism and the double standard had struck again.
There is a contradiction in perfectionism. Among the reasons we want to achieve at a high level is to feel worthy and accepted. We want to feel close to others and to have a sense of belonging. When we fall short, we feel separate and disconnected. When we feel inadequate, we hide and we feel more alone. This is compounded by living in a culture that emphasizes being unique. We compare ourselves to others, looking for an edge. The reality is that we are more alike than not, yet we’re too busy trying to stand out to see this.
There’s nothing wrong with high expectations… unless they are unreasonable. That is where many of us get stuck. Mistakes are part of the human condition and we are all human. Dr. Neff goes on to say, “If we can compassionately remind ourselves in moments of falling down that failure is part of the shared human experience, then that moment becomes one of togetherness rather than isolation.”
What does self-compassion have to do with you and your parents?
We parents sometimes say things we regret. We have a hard time forgiving ourselves because we know that once the words are said, they can never be taken back. We are afraid of wounding you and feel awful when we lose our cool. It can sit in the back of our mind and make us nervous about trying to get close to you. It’s important for us to remember that we are human, too. We hope that if we can learn to be compassionate and forgiving with ourselves, you will see that and learn to give yourself a break, too.
We are also hard on ourselves when we think other parents and families have it all together. We must remember that everyone has a story, and we only see what they let us see. (A family without any struggles doesn’t exist.)
Here’s where choosing self-compassion goes a long way. When we stop comparing, we can acknowledge how challenging parenting can be, and that we did the best we were capable of in that moment.
Now what about you? We know how tough adolescence can be. More than anything, we want to help you figure out how get through these years without too many scars.
Your life can be filled with stress and anxiety during the teen years – over school, relationships, future goals and the desire for acceptance and belonging. With all that pressure, there’s a lot of self-judging and comparing to others going on. (Does that sound a bit like what your parents are going through?)
You have also been hearing the message that above all, you should seek to be happy. We already know that this is not realistic, and even harmful. “If I’m supposed to be happy, what do I do when I’m not?” This is where a lot of teens start self-medicating and self-harming with drugs, alcohol, cutting and eating disorders. These are dangerous coping skills.
What if you were choosing self-compassion instead of self-criticism? What if you could feel more connected instead of feeling alone? Imagine being more calm and feeling more secure with who you are, including the imperfect parts.
This is what I would choose for my children, and am working on for myself. Instead of judgment, acceptance. Instead of perfectionism, self-compassion.
What will you choose?
About the Author: Fern WEIS, Monthly Mentor and Parent Mentor, is a certified Parent Empowerment Coach and Family Recovery Coach. While teaching middle school for 13 years, Fern trained as a life coach and founded her business, Your Family Matters, in 2008. Fern works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Through group programs and private coaching, parents work on communication skills, building relationship and setting boundaries with love and respect. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life’s challenges. Read More…