Pursuit of Happiness
Many of us want a better life. We want to look more attractive, lose weight, get fitter, become more successful, get that promotion, be happier, you get the jist. Some of us just want it to happen without doing anything for it, some of us are willing to work harder for it and some of us think it will probably never happen, so they don’t even bother trying.
What we often fail to understand is that throughout our pursuit of happiness, if we were to achieve those goals or dreams, would we even be satisfied with it once we got there?
One of the most popularly quoted statistics for the formula of happiness is that your external circumstances (daily life/life events) are only responsible for 10% of the factors that predict your long term happiness. The other 90% are divided between your genes and upbringing (50%) and your thoughts and actions (40%). Your thoughts and actions are things within your power to control and improve upon.
Positive Self Talk
If you had a friend who was always talking down to you, using demeaning language and never happy with anything you do, what type of relationship would that be? Yet, this is how many individuals feel about themselves or talk to themselves.
Looking at the way you talk to yourself is a great place to start with learning to love yourself. Words are very powerful, which is why communication is such a vital part of relationships. But what about the relationship you have with yourself? Research is showing that the more kind and compassionate you are to yourself, the more likely you are to lead a productive and fulfilling life.
People who practice self-compassion tend to have lower levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and insecurities. What’s more is that they are also more likely to be happy and optimistic, with more resilience and would be more motivated to make positive changes to improve their lives.
Embracing your faults and loving yourself despite mistakes or flaws also helps to develop more positivity. There is a desire to improve and become better when compassion, rather than derision, is shown. The effects of practicing self-compassion can extend beyond the unseen emotional and mental well-being of one’s self too. People who have self-compassion and love tend to have better relationships with others.
Dr. Kristen Neff outlines the “Three Elements of Self-Compassion” below:
“Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration, and self-criticism. When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.”
“Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes. All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.”
“Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. This equilibrated stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, thus putting our own situation into a larger perspective. It also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.”
Change Your Inner Critic
This can be done through internal dialogue or if you prefer to keep a record to help you learn, journaling can be useful too.
Step 1 – Identify when you are being self-critical. Some of us are oblivious to our inner voice. Whenever you are feeling down or not “good enough”, try to think about what you’ve said to yourself and the way you said it. Was it aggressive, demeaning, callous? Try to get a clear sense of what your inner critic is like.
Step 2 – Try to soften the words your inner critic is using. Or, accept what they have said, but acknowledge it and move on to step 3.
Step 3 – Rephrase what your inner critic has stated in a caring and positive way. If you struggle with this, try imagining what a very compassionate friend might say to you in this circumstance and try to be supportive of yourself.
Treat Yourself Better
Changing the way you treat yourself can change your perspective and it can help you to enjoy your process of self-betterment with whichever goals and dreams you have set yourself to a greater degree.
Practice takes time and for a lot of us, it may take a while to change long-standing thought processes. Learning to love oneself is a road everyone should travel and we hope you enjoy the journey.
If you’re interested in learning more about self-compassion, we highly recommend Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer’s book “The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook”.