Are you one of those people who “beat” themselves up every time something goes wrong?
Did you say or do something you shouldn’t have?
Fell back into your bad habit?
Called out from work?
Didn’t call a friend back?
Yelled at your kid? Gave your children French fries instead of blueberries?
Had too much to drink?
Forgot to pray?
Didn’t get dishes done?
Said no to a family gathering but chose to stay home instead?
Didn’t get anything done on your To-Do list?
Judged someone for their “bad” attitude?
Watched TV instead of reading a book?
Slept in instead of doing yoga in the morning?
The list can go on and on. If you are like me, you have beaten yourself up for one or more of these at least once in your life. Or more. Or maybe you do it on a daily basis. I’m a bad case of someone who uses self-criticism to “motivate” myself to take action. But is this approach really motivating? I thought it was. I thought I had to be really hard on myself if I did or said something I shouldn’t have.
My biggest anxiety in my life is time anxiety. If I feel like I procrastinate and waste my time not doing something productive, I fail in life. If I’m not learning and growing, I slowly start panicking and descend into misery. Sometimes this approach does work for me, but what I did realize was I spend more time being too serious and uptight, demanding and controlling (of myself and others), rather than experience joy and happiness.
Recently, I read a wonderful book by Kristin Neff, “Self-Compassion. Stop beating yourself up, and leave insecurity behind.” The idea of self-compassion was totally new to me. I never thought that being soft, loving, and understanding towards myself would be productive and help me achieve my life goals. After reading the book, I felt like my whole world turned upside down. I discovered:
1)I don’t have to be perfect (because I simply never will be.)
2)No one is perfect, and we all struggle with many things.
3)I don’t have to beat myself up for doing something wrong or procrastinating.
4)We are all a part of imperfect humanity, and not separate from it.
5)There is always someone else who struggles with the same things you do.
6)It’s okay to accept yourself as you are.
What we need to focus on instead, is being aware of our imperfections, but be compassionate towards our shortcomings. We should allow ourselves to feel our feelings, but not dwell on them. If we messed up, we need to make things right with the people we hurt, and not wait for resentment to kick in, or blame others for our mess ups. We should take care of ourselves and our emotional needs without feeling selfish.
I personally intend on using the 80/20 rule. If I’m good 80 percent of the time, it’s okay even if I mess up the whole other 20! Life is not about perfection. The best way to learn is through mistakes and failures. Get up, apologize, brush it off, and move on.
If one is cruel to himself, how can we expect him to be compassionate with others?
Hasdai Ibn Shaprut (10th C. Jewish scholar)