How do you react when you make a mistake or fall short of your goals? If you’re anything like me, you’ll criticize yourself relentlessly. And you’ll dwell on the moments before the blunder, picking apart every decision that led you there.
But what if the tables were turned and it was your colleague that slipped up? Would you remind them about their failures? Or tell them that they would have succeeded had they only worked harder?
Unless you’re the most unpopular person in the office, chances are the answer is no. Instead, you’d try to make them feel better, offer some perspective, or question why they’re wasting their time over something that can’t be changed.
So, why do so many of us deny ourselves the same level of compassion that we give to others?
Your Top Tips for Showing Self-Compassion
We wanted to know how you show self-compassion. So, we asked our friends and followers on social media, “How do you show yourself self-compassion when you fall short of your goals or make a mistake?” Here is a selection of your great replies.
What Is, and Is Not, Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion isn’t an opportunity to pity yourself or inflate your ego. Instead, it’s about caring for yourself in painful moments and guiding yourself to the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether that’s with kind words of encouragement, or even just a slice of cake!
According to the author, professor and leading authority on self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff, “with self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.”
Twitter follower Paul Gray, a marketing manager from Scotland, adopts this same technique when he makes mistakes. He said, “I imagine I’m advising someone else if I’m being heavily critical of myself. What advice would I give a friend or colleague in my situation? This then challenges the issue at hand and often takes away the ‘big stick’ that I’m beating myself with.”
On LinkedIn, director and leadership coach Fiona Gifford echoed this sentiment. She believes that in order to be kind to yourself, and look at your failures objectively, you have to “treat yourself as you would a friend.”
Watch Your Language
The first step to being kind to yourself is silencing your inner critic.
Often, this voice represents the perfectionist inside of you. But, according to Brighton-based managing director and LinkedIn follower Georgia Rooney, “Perfection is a red herring that stops us from just getting on with it.” She recommends Tara Mohr’s book, Playing Big, to learn more about how your inner critic affects your ability to achieve your goals.
Many overly self-critical people are compulsively negative. As a result, they often won’t notice their inner critic until it’s too late. If you’re prone to habitual negativity, it may be time to develop your self-awareness.
Our Facebook friend Jordan Williams, an admission counselor from Utah, uses self-awareness to “correct negative self-talk and replace it with affirmations.” Positive affirmations are a great way to ditch unhelpful, negative thought processes. But a compassionate, positive outlook doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s about making the best of a bad situation.
Have You Set the Bar Too High?
One way you can adopt self-compassion is to ask yourself why you didn’t succeed. Your cynical side may try to convince you that you weren’t good enough or didn’t try hard enough. But perhaps the real reason was that you set the bar too high.
Perfectionists often have a habit of setting themselves outlandish goals with unrealistic deadlines. But no matter how much time and effort you invest, you are only human, and can only do so much.
On Linkedin, CEO Cheryl Clemons asserted that sometimes, good enough is good enough. She said, “Remind yourself that you did your best within that specific set of circumstances, e.g. with the information you had, how you were feeling on the day, and what else you were juggling. Reflect and think about what can improve things for next time, and don’t feel shy about sharing your experience with others.”
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Louisa suggested shifting your focus from the big picture to small wins. When working toward her own goals, she said, “I remind myself how far I’ve come and that it really is OK to take small steps toward my goals.”
Jo Cook, from Surrey in the U.K., highlighted the importance of regularly reviewing your goals: “Remember that goals aren’t written in stone. They can, and should, change.” In other words, if you’re struggling to get the job done, then you may need to reassess your game plan.
A Matter of Perspective
They say time heals all wounds. It can offer perspective and help you to see your blunders as opportunities to learn, rather than moments to forget.
From all the way across the pond in Cincinnati, our Facebook friend Aaron Spaulding reminds us that “failure and shortcomings are only temporary. As a chronic perfectionist, I often remind myself that perfection doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice and a lot of patience.”
On Linkedin, Mind Tools’ own Charlotte Buckingham and Suzanne White both said that they see mistakes as lessons. Charlotte asked, “In a year’s time, will you be upset over it? If not, try not to let it stress you too much.” Suzanne added, “I think mistakes are positive as they create an opportunity to learn and/or change something!”
Twitter follower, Eric Nulens, also uses perspective as a tool to show self-compassion. He said, “I will listen to what I’ve been criticized about, ask myself what’s the reason, and put it in perspective. Most of the time, anything you say or do is almost immediately forgotten by other people.”
It’s important to remember that you can’t change what has already happened. Torturing yourself over past failures will only waste precious time and effort. Instead, use the lessons you’ve learned to develop yourself and prevent future mistakes.
Turn Self-Compassion Into a Habit
Dr. Neff maintains that self-compassion is a positive habit that requires regular practice and attention. Jo Cook reinforced this point by quoting mindfulness expert Dr. Shauna Shapiro’s wise words, “What you practice grows stronger.” She went on to say, “If that is a self-critical voice, you’ll be awesome at it. I’m trying a compassionate voice.”