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♥️ Self Compassion 101
Did you know that compassion is a better motivator than punishment for instilling motivation?
It may sound counterproductive to what we have learned so far, and based on what logic may tell us. After all, a burn from touching a hot stove will teach us to never touch hot objects ever again. Pain can be a great source of learning.
But motivation doesn’t quite work the same way.
We may think that to get motivated to not do something (or the other way around), pain can be very effective in instilling learning, and assume this learning will guide motivation towards action or lack of.
Latest research on human motivations and maintaining long-term and intrinsic motivation, challenges this notion.
It turns out that compassion is a better tool for instilling motivation.
We often give very little importance to the damage our self-punishment causes.
Yes you can beat yourself up for making a mistake, and that may feel the right thing to do in the moment, but the reality is we don’t just do it for a moment.
We beat ourselves up for hours, days, and even months for some mistakes.
From a personal experience, I used to be extremely hard on myself for missing expectations I set. For example, maintaining a daily workout habit. Sometimes it works, but I inevitably find myself missing workouts even after beating myself up multiple times.
This clearly means that this tool isn’t effective.
What is actually happening when I would beat myself up is that I damage my self-image, my trust in myself, and ultimately my confidence. Doing this over and over again wrecks havoc on my ability to operate at my best.
Confidence comes from Latin confidere; meaning Intense Trust - without intense trust in myself I won’t have the confidence to maintain the habit, but also my confidence in taking future actions as well.
Compassion on the other hand is not complacency, rather it is a level of understanding what exactly failed, without being clouded by self-judgment, so the right solution can be put in place.
A compassionate reflection can look something like this:
Missed today’s workout? Understandable. Someone else in a similar situation would’ve missed it too. What is the best way to make sure I don’t miss tomorrow’s workout?
Negativity takes energy
We’ve all faced that first hand, when we are in high stress environments we are drained of energy.
The same applies for stress we put on ourselves when we spend unrealistic times judging ourselves for mistakes and not moving forward. This can become so bad that it makes a person shift their identity.
From missing one workout it can expand into not being a healthy person, or being someone lacking strength to take action (seen as weak), or whatever other creative way judgment can extend the damage.
When a mistake happens, the pain is already experienced - any self-judging narrative thereafter is additional pain.
Yet, we all know that when we fall down we need all the energy we can have to get back up. It doesn’t seem like a smart decision to waste whatever energy left with further judgement instead of cultivating more of it to get started back again.
I love the Japanese saying: Fall down seven, stand up eight.
Success in life is not about how many times you fail, but about restarting as soon as you do.
Positivity makes you resourceful
Positivity is quite under-rated.
Mainly because of how extreme positivity can cause more damage by ignoring facts and even changing the reality of what is truly happening. Psychology actually has a term for this - the Prima Donna Effect.
But positivity and toxic positivity are two completely different things.
Being positive can help you create resources. As per the ground-breaking research from Barbara Fredrickson on positivity, she introduced the concept of broaden-and-build which shows us how a positive state of mind can help a person think creatively in a broad perspective, versus the negative state of mind that is usually single focused on the problem (due to our survival instinct) and the need for quick (and sometimes ineffective) solution seeking.
When you are positive you engage with others in a better way than when you are negative - you build social resources and connections.
When you are positive you can think outside the box by making creative connections - you build cognitive resources and intellectual capabilities.
When you are positive you have more confidence (and buffer) to do stressful activities - you build extra strength and emotional resources.
Compassion is the strongest positive emotion, as per Dr. Fredrickson’s research almost 3 decades ago, which was proven by a plethora of research since then. We know this ourselves, when love underlies our action, the action is unstoppable.
If we want to bring more compassion to the world we live in and the interactions we have in our everyday life, the best place to start is through bringing it to the relationship we have with ourselves.
In the next Super Sunday article, I will cover the ground-breaking and evidence-based framework for creating sellf compassion - a framework that had one of the biggest impacts on the field of positive psychology since it was introduced 20 years ago.
For now, remember to choose kindness when engaging with yourself and others.
Have a Super Sunday! 💪
With much love,