Dump Your Inner Drill SergeantThe Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
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- 4 Jan 2021
We often start a new year hoping to make big changes in how we look, feel or act. This can involve a lot of self-criticism and adopting things like tough diets and brutal exercise regimes. But being hard on ourselves doesn't deliver results.
Dr Laurie Santos examines why being a nasty drill sergeant to ourselves is less effective than being a kind coach; and hears from researcher and author Kristin Neff about why developing self-compassion is vital to helping us achieve our new year goals.
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Hello, happiness lab listeners, and welcome to 2021. If you're like me, you're probably hoping that the next 12 months will be a lot better than the year we just had. You may even be considering changes you can make in your own life. And of course, you're not alone. Lots of people will be adopting New Year's resolutions this January to alter the way they look, think and behave.
Now, don't get me wrong, I think making changes in our lives, especially at fresh start moments like the New Year, is a great idea.
The problem is, if we're not careful, our lying minds may wind up leading us off in the wrong direction, telling us to do things that will make us less happy than we think, or picking strategies that will make us lose morale and give up before we even get started. The big temptation at this time of year is to be really hard on yourself, to ruthlessly identify all the faults of your past, to set the bar soubry for what you want to achieve and to set out on some surprisingly punishing regimes in order to reach your goals.
I know this temptation well. I fall for it all the time, but the science just doesn't back it up. Strict diets, brutal exercise plans and going cold turkey on the personal habits you want to shed. These strategies just don't work. But there is good news because the psychological research points to a more effective path over the next four episodes of this special season. I'll explain why the secret to fulfilling all your New Year's goals is simply to be nicer to ourselves if you're ready to learn more and kick those bad habits through kindness.
Then join me, Dr. Laurie Santos, as the Happiness Lab presents our mini season on smart strategies for achieving your New Year's goals. If I constantly told you that you were lazy, stupid and unfit, that you weren't really good at your job and that your house was a terrible mess, you'd probably switch off this podcast. But when the new year comes around, many of us create even worse mentalists, cataloguing how much we suck.
It's as though our inner monologues get taken over by some cruel drill sergeant who yells at us about our faults and past mistakes. We call ourselves names and start hurling these awful insults. You're dumb, you're greedy, you're weak.
Do you understand? Yeah. We all know this boot camp brutality doesn't feel good, but we think that it's what we need to do in order to break our bad habits and get motivated. But we're wrong. All this self flagellation is just self-defeating. That's the big message that comes from the lovely work of today's guest author and psychologist Kristin Neff. OK, is that good? Yep. I can hear you fine. And then the sound quality sounds great, so that's not working.
Kristin, who's also an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has identified a more effective way for people to meet their goals and one that makes us happier in the process. But like a lot of us, she still had to overcome the harsh drill sergeant inside her head.
My life was a mess. I had just gotten through a divorce and it was a very messy divorce. And I was feeling a lot of shame because of the way that the marriage ended. I was really beating myself up, hoping that it would make me a better person, that I would never make the same types of mistakes again.
Talk about what that was doing to you. You mentioned the site, sort of the shame that you were going through, kind of what it can do from a personal sense.
Right. So self-criticism and shame and they're slightly different, but they're very related. So self-criticism is we actively arraying ourselves or say cruel things were unkind to ourselves and shame is kind of the end result of self-criticism. Shame is a very hollowed out feeling where we identify as being a bad person. And so criticism could be aimed at our behavior or self criticism of our behavior isn't actually necessarily a bad thing. So guilt they find in psychological research isn't necessarily a bad thing.
If you feel guilty about something you've done to harm someone, being critical of what you did is actually healthy. We don't want to pretend that everything we do is OK because often it's not. And it needs to change the criticism aimed at ourselves. So belief that just because I made a mistake, I am a mistake, I am bad. That's really not healthy at all because first of all, it shuts down our awareness or we feel shame. We kind of feel hollow sometimes.
We even dissociate from our bodies. We cut ourselves off from other people. Makes it a lot harder to apologize to others because we feel so full of shame. It makes it much more difficult to see the truth about what we've done because we're just blinded by our shame. We can't even take it in. And it also takes away our energy and motivation to try to do better next time. It's like pulling the rug out from underneath you when you feel shame.
It's not a motivating mindset. It's actually debilitating mindset.
What's so shocking about that, though, is that that kind of self-criticism isn't uncommon, right? Especially at this time of the year and then a year. I feel like there's so many people who think that motivating themselves to gain positive habits in the New Year requires being this awful, self-critical drill sergeant. It almost like institutes shame rather than avoids it.
Right? Right. And I think there are some reasons for this. I actually think some of it is physiological. So when we feel threatened and every time we make a mistake or we fail at something, we actually feel threatened. And so when we feel threatened, we go into fight flight or freeze response when the problem is ourselves. And then we've done some mistake we've made we fight ourselves, we attack ourselves. We don't think logically about what went wrong, what happened.
We just think danger. I'm the danger. I'm a problem now. And we attack ourselves. And somehow we think that's going to keep yourself safe. We're going to beat ourselves up so that we won't make mistakes anymore. We'll be able to control ourselves and our behavior through this harshness. And actually, the only response that goes along with shame, that feeling of wanting to isolate yourself from all of the people, that's actually what happens with shame is the safety behavior.
We hang our heads in shame. We're actually feeling safe because we're protecting ourselves from the perceived judgments of the group. And the freeze response is also related to this. When we get stuck and we just ruminate and all we can think about is I'm so bad, I'm so bad, and we kind of feel stuck, we can't do anything about it. That's a freeze response. Is part of us thinking that, well, maybe if I just play dead, the danger will go away.
And so it's actually a natural response to threat. And by the way, I don't feel as threatened with my best friend makes a mistake, which is why I'm actually more able to be kind of caring and supportive to my best friend than I am to myself. And so it's a natural behavior. It makes sense. The problem is, is actually totally counterproductive. Doesn't make you safe at all and actually makes you less safe because it inhibits your ability to make productive change.
So on the Happiness Lab, we talk a lot about the fact that our mind lies to us. You know, we have these strong intuitions about how we can build better habits. And those intuitions tend to be wrong. And self-criticism seems to be a really strong one. You know, people don't want to hate themselves or beat themselves up. They just think that that's the only way to motivate themselves. And so talk about the research showing why this is so wrong.
Just before I get into the research, just as a really useful thought experiment you can do, is think about if your child came to you who had made a mistake, maybe they got a really poor grade on the test. And imagine the effect on your child if you shamed them, if you said, I hate you, I don't love you anymore, you're horrible. You better do better next time or else, you know, what we say to our children is, hey, I love you regardless.
It's OK, everyone fails. But how can I help you? How can I help you to get better grades six over? How can I help you to learn from this? And we do that because we love our children. And so we naturally use more constructive approaches. But it also has to be acknowledged not always. Right. So some parents are actually not only self-critical, but they're also very critical of their children. They tell them, just buck up, stop complaining.
Maybe our parents weren't always supportive. Maybe they didn't always meet our needs. Right. And maybe we've got some wounds because of that. But as adults, we have the ability to be good parents to ourselves. Do we can meet our own needs. We can support ourselves. We can be warm and accepting and encouraging to ourselves, even if our parents didn't happen to model that for us. And the research absolutely supports this. Right. And the research is done a few different ways.
One is by just seeing people who naturally have higher levels of self compassion as measured through a self compassion scale, or if you help people after a failure, just relate to themselves more compassionately about that failure. What we know is, first of all, people are much more motivated to try again. They try harder, they persist longer. They're more likely to pick themselves up after a failure again and try again. They have more grit. They have more determination.
So just to give you an example, there was a great study that came out of UC Berkeley. The study was they gave all the Berkeley students that incredibly hard vocabulary test in the city that everyone failed. Right. And so they had three groups after the failure. One group, they they told the students to be self compassionate about it, try not to beat yourself up. It happens to everyone, you know, it's OK. Another group, they try boosting their self-esteem.
Don't worry about it. You got into Berkeley, you must be smart. And and the third group, they told nothing, which meant that the students were probably beating themselves up because that's what most of us do. And what they found is the group that we're told to be self compassionate about the failure when given the chance kind of unobserved to see how long would they study for the next exam so they could actually improve the grade on the test. The people who are told to be self compassionate study longer and tried harder to succeed on the next exam than the people who are told nothing or who their self-esteem was boosted.
That's just the type of research we do to show that actually this caring, supportive stance toward ourselves actually gives us the emotional resources we need as an alternative to self-esteem.
And this is really critical because I think sometimes it's really easy if you don't know the literature to confuse self compassion and self esteem. So so talk about how these two concepts are different and why self esteem might not measure up to this approach of self compassion.
Yeah, so so self esteem is basically a positive judgment of self-worth. I am a good person. I'm a success. I'm I'm beautiful. Whatever, you know, whatever your positive judgment is that you think positively of yourself. And we know for mental health it's important to have high self-esteem as opposed to hating yourself, because if you hate yourself, you're going to be depressed and anxious. You might even think about suicide if it's really bad. Because of that, a lot of people have tried to boost the self-esteem of children, for instance, in school, thinking it's going to give them better mental health, you know, and it's not a problem to have high self-esteem.
The problem is how do you get it? So there's a lot of unhealthy ways to get high self-esteem. Right. So, for instance, you have to feel special, an above average going to feel better than other people, which leads to constant social comparison. It leads to things like bullying others. We know that's why little kids start to bully others, because they're trying to boost their self-esteem. They're trying to feel good about themselves in comparison to others.
But the biggest problem with self-esteem is that its contingent is contingent on success. So we have self-esteem when other people like us are when we feel that we're attractive or when we succeed, whether it's at school or business, athletics, whatever is important to you, then we have high self-esteem. But what happens when we fail? When we fail, the self-esteem deserts US is contingent on success as opposed to failure. And that's a problem because as human. Beings were constantly going to fail, right, and so self compassion is the perfect alternative because self compassion isn't dependent on success or failure.
Self compassion is simply a process of being kind, supportive and warm to yourself. And also remembering that failure is part of the shared human condition is actually not self focused at all. It's not like self-pity, like woe is me self compassion is just a part of being human is being imperfect. We're all in the same boat. Can I be kind of warm, supportive to myself in the midst of my feelings of failure, in the midst of my own happiness or my struggle?
So self compassion kicks in precisely when self esteem desires us, and that is when we fail or make a mistake. You know, also, it's positive thinking. You're telling yourself lies. You aren't saying I'm great. It's actually just the opposite. What it is, is opening to the truth of your imperfection and saying, yes, I am imperfect. Yes, I'm a human being who is flawed. I can accept that.
You talked about the sort of the bad divorce part of the story and things talk about how you snapped out of that form of self-criticism, what you learned.
Right. Well, so I learned about it when practicing mindfulness meditation to me, view of my stress. But much to my surprise, a woman leading the class talked a lot about self compassion, about the difference it can make when you're kind and warm, supportive to yourself, especially when you're going through a hard time, which I was. And what I found was when I gave myself warmth and support for what had happened, I was worried with that kind of take responsibility for how things went wrong.
I was more able to apologize to my ex-husband, but I was really more able to commit to doing things a better way. And what I found over and over again whenever I make mistakes, that the more I am able to respond to my mistakes with compassion, actually, the more able I am to make changes. It's kind of the interplay of acceptance and change. Carl Rogers actually said. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, then I can change.
And the what self compassion does, it gives us the warmth to accept the fact that we're imperfect, but it also gives us the feeling of care to want to do better next time. I hope this conversation has helped you notice how harsh and self-critical your mental drill sergeant can be, but the good news is that we don't need a nasty inner voice to make positive changes in our lives. This is a message that can be hard to accept at first.
But after the break, Cristen will share all the research that backs this up. She'll explain what self compassion actually consists of and how you can bring it to bear in your everyday life to more effectively reach your goals. The happiness lab will return in a moment. Most of us dream of a world in which our friends, colleagues and even total strangers consistently treat us with kindness, understanding and compassion. It is kind of puzzling then, that so many of us have such a hard time treating ourselves with the same kind of respect.
True self compassion seems amazingly rare before Kristin began her research back in 2006.
It was a really poorly understood virtue. So what if it is self compassion?
Most scientists define compassion as the desire to alleviate suffering, and so self compassion is the desire to alleviate our own suffering and there are three parts to it. So part is being kind, warm and supportive. And that's where the emotional tenor of self compassion, treating ourselves like we treat a good friend. This offer to other elements that are really important, what is actually mindfulness, and not to define self compassion or compassion for others as necessarily having to include mindfulness.
But I think it has to because without being mindful of suffering, without being able to turn toward and be with pain, to actually face our mistakes or actually recognize how hard it is for us in the moment, we actually can't be self compassionate. And so if we just try to avoid our pain and stiff upper lip, shove it down, I'm not going to acknowledge it. We can't be self compassionate. Alternatively, if we're lost in our drama like, oh, this is so terrible, the worst thing that ever happened, I'm such a terrible person.
Like if we're fused with our pain, we have no space that mindfulness gives us. We have no perspective. If we have no perspective, then we can't step outside of ourselves to say, wow, I'm having a really hard time. I need some warmth and support right now.
And you mean mindfulness in a particular way, right? You mean accepting your suffering without trying to change it? Nonjudgmental, right?
Mindfulness, especially in the context of self compassion, really just means that we are present and aware of whatever painful feelings we're having or difficult thoughts or emotions. And it also means that we accept that they're there. So mindfulness is really kind of the foundation of self compassion and then there's that warm, supportive response. But really important because we don't want self compassion to be self pity. A self focused self pity is not helpful to anyone and needs recognition of common humanity, a recognition of interconnection.
What differentiates compassion from pity? If someone pities you, it doesn't feel good because looking down on you, this sense of separateness that we like and people give us compassion when the sick hey, been there, you know. So compassion in the Latin actually means to suffer with. There's an inherent connectedness and compassion. "There but for fortune go I" go with self compassion. It's not really self focused at all. If no, the word self is there, it's just saying, hey, life's difficult for everyone.
All human beings make mistakes. I'm not alone. And that ability not to feel alone is one of the most powerful aspects of self compassion. I mean, loneliness is a huge problem in our society. And when you remember that actually we're never alone, not everyone suffers the same amount. That's certainly true. I mean, people with privilege suffer less than people who are oppressed. So there are differences that need to be honored. But it's also true that no one escape suffering.
We all struggle.
And I know you've talked about your personal experience with self compassion in this part of it, in particular, this idea of a recognition of common humanity being really important. I know you talked about that with with your son and going through a really stressful diagnosis with him, too, right? Yeah.
Yeah. So my son's are autistic and the ability to have self compassion just absolutely saved me. I had already had about seven years of solid self compassion practice at that point. And when he when he got the diagnosis, it's easy to feel self pity. Why me? Why can't I have like a normal child like everyone else, but what self compassion help me to do first? The mindfulness helped me just to accept all my feelings, because, you know, when your son's diagnosed, especially as you are feeling, do you think you aren't supposed to have a disappointment?
How can I be disappointed? I love him more than anything else in the world. I feel and feeling disappointed. What what do I do with that? But with mindfulness, I just allow myself to have all the feelings of fear, anxiety, disappointment. I just really opened to it all. And then I was again kind of supportive to myself. But what really helped me was instead of feeling isolated, I remember, you know, OK, most kids aren't autistic.
Well, a lot of them are. So I'm not alone in that. But also, even though it's not autism, all parents struggle with their children instead of thinking like this is supposed to be happening. I remember. Well, wait a second. Who said so? Who said parenting was supposed to be perfect? Every single parent has struggles and challenges with their children. Maybe it's not autism, but it could be other mental health issues or physical challenges, or at the very least, all parents have conflicts and difficulties while raising their children because that's actually what it means to be a parent.
And so making that reframe really allow me to avoid feeling self-pity with autism diagnosis and help me feel more connected to other people, other parents. It really gave me the emotional resources to be there for myself. Like, for instance, he's doing great now, but when he was younger, his autism was pretty severe. We have these horrible tantrums, these horrific tantrums, and he wasn't toilet trained till he was five, it was it was a rough time.
But what I found is the more I could give myself compassion for the difficulties of parenting him, you know, this is so hard.
I can't believe I have to change his pants again. And, you know, I can't believe it's tantrumming. And I would just. It's OK, Christine. I'm here for you. It's OK. It'll be OK. Know, I'm so sorry. This is so hard. I found that the more I could give myself warmth and support and acceptance for my situation, the more I could give my son warmth and support and acceptance for who he was. And so some people think that self compassion is selfish, self focused, and it's kind of a shame that the word self is in there.
You know, if I had to redo it, maybe I'll call it just inner compassion, because compassion is compassion. All we're doing is we're including ourselves and the circle of compassion. And actually, the more compassion can flow inward, the more can flow outward. It's not like we've got five units and if I give three to myself, I only have two left over. For someone else, it's additive. And so the more we give ourselves compassion, the more resources we have actually to give to others.
And I absolutely found that with my son to be true. And it's funny that we often think about mindfulness and kind of just kindness in general is so tough because evolutionarily speaking, we're really built to be kind of kind and to help others when they're going through suffering, right? Yeah.
So the reason mindfulness is so difficult evolutionarily is because our brains actually aren't designed to be mindful. We the default mode of our brain is to be mind wandering. You probably know that. And so to create a sense of self and think about the past and the future and look for problems. And so in some ways, believe it or not, compassion is easier than mindfulness, because mindfulness is we need to kind of get quiet. We need to fight against the fact that our brain wants us to worry.
But kindness is something that we develop evolutionarily. Charles Darwin, much more than talking about the survival of the fittest. He talked about survival, the kindest, because this capacity to bond with others, to feel warmth, to feel care, actually helped our species to survive. And so whereas self-criticism taps in to the threat defense system, like I talked about, self compassion taps into the mammalian care system, the system that's built in. We know when we feel close to others, when we feel connected, where our parasympathetic nervous system gets activated, our our sympathetic response goes down.
Release oxytocin and opiates. We increase heart rate variability. We feel safe. And so what we're doing with self compassion is we're actually tapping into that care system. The only thing is, again, because when we feel threatened, we more we more automatically go into fight, flight or freeze response. What we're doing is we're actually switching our source of safety from the defense system to the care system. So you won't say that it's not totally natural. All right.
So we've got to do a little juggling and treat ourselves like we would treat a good friend. But once we do that, once we do that, it's actually not difficult to be self compassionate because it's just it goes along with all these skills that we have. We know how to be warm to a friend who's having a hard time. We know what to say. We know how to hold our bodies.
We know how to use our voice. So these are skills that we already have inside of us. All we really need is to be able to speak to ourselves like we speak to a good friend. We already know how to do it. It's more about giving ourselves permission to do it and also remembering to do it, because, again, our habitual immediate reaction is to go into fight flight or flee response. And a good friend, McCleery, said, you know, the research is becoming really boring because it all finds the same outcome, which is itself, compassion is really good for you.
It's good for your mental health. Right. So less depression, anxiety and stress, greater happiness is good for your physical health as more and more research showing it enhances immune function. People sleep better and they have fewer colds, aches and pains. That reduces physical pain, things like that. It increases learning. It promotes growth goals and learning goals as opposed to just like trying to look good. It's linked to greater motivation. People try harder, they're more persistent, they're more likely to re-engage in the goals and they get knocked off.
Balance is good for relationships. It increases your ability to be a good partner in a relationship, and it leads to more satisfying interpersonal relationships. There's one study this linked to better sex. There we go. It links to more exercise, going to the doctor more often, taking better care of yourself. Really, if you look at the range of behaviors that lead to being a happy, healthy human being, self compassion really, really helps. It makes a huge difference.
It's like we are the super power in our back pocket and we don't even know we have. You've got this ability to support ourselves, to help us effectively create change, and we just we instead are still under the illusion that we think beating ourselves up is going to be a better way to achieve our goals when it's really not.
And I think that comes from some of the misconceptions we have. I mean, one of the misconceptions that I often get when I talk about self compassion to my students, my kind of type A Ivy League students, is they think self compassion is kind of weak. It's like the weak thing to do. But but your work is shown. It's just the opposite.
Just the opposite. So, for instance, there's a lot of research on combat veterans, the veterans who saw action in Iraq or Afghanistan. And a lot of people, when they go through a trauma like that, a lot of soldiers, they develop post-traumatic stress syndrome. And what the research shows is that those soldiers were able to be compassionate to themselves about what happened when they were overseas. They're less likely to develop PTSD. They function better in daily life when they come home, and they're less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol because they can support themselves with compassion as opposed to having to turn to alcohol.
And they're less likely to commit suicide. You know, if you think about what makes you weak or what makes you strong when you go into battle and, you know, life's a battle, these soldiers actually had actual battle. But for all of us at some level of the battle, what's going to make you stronger when you go into battle? If the inner voice inside your head is an enemy, is cutting you down, who's shaming you? I hate you.
You aren't good enough. Is that going to make you stronger or is it going to be stronger if you're an ally? I got your back. I'm here for you. You can do it. How can I help? Clearly, having an ally inside your head is going to be make you stronger than having an enemy inside your head. And so, you know, it makes sense. But yet people for a reason, they don't they don't think that they think that self compassion is just about slacking off easy enough.
So actually, there are two sides of self compassion. I like to call it fierce and tender self compassion. So tender self compassion is just about self acceptance. Sometimes what we do need to do is just accept ourselves as we are. OK, we aren't perfect. That's OK. This is painful and that actually allows us to heal. But sometimes compassion needs to be fierce. If your suffering is because you're in a second storey building and the story before you is caught on fire, you don't want to just be with yourself in a tender way.
You want to, like, jump out the window if you need to send us. We need to be brave and take action to alleviate our suffering. Sometimes we need to protect ourselves. We need to say no to others. We need to draw boundaries. Sometimes we need to make changes for it. We're stuck in a toxic relationship or an unhealthy job or or engaging in behaviors that are really bad for us. It's not compassionate to just let those slide is compassion and to actually make a change.
And also, it's really important that we provide for our needs. Right. We don't want to say those. If we just aren't being fulfilled, if we aren't happy, we don't want to just let that slide. We want to do something about it, to give ourselves what we need. So that's more of the fear side of compassion. We always need both at some level, and it's a balance between the yin and yang that's actually most effective.
Let's talk a little bit more about how we can actually get self compassion. I hope our listeners are convinced that it's a good thing that we should embrace it. Right. But how do we do this right? Like how do we really stop beating ourselves up? And you've kind of given your students a specific set of steps that they can use to kind of experience this themselves.
It's not rocket science, right? Because the reason it's not rocket science is because people already know how to be compassionate. That's the cool thing. It's not like learning a radically foreign skill is actually three doorways in one. One is just being compassionate to yourself directly after time. You can do that, although it's a little awkward at first. Another one is imagine what would I say to a dear friend in the exact same situation? What would I say?
How would I say it? And then you could say that to yourself. And the other way is using your experience of when people have been compassionate to you, what would a really compassionate friend or would be grandparents so we could Tonev experience has been very, very compassionate. What would they probably say to me right now? We can access that as a template so that the other thing you can do is bring in the three components of self compassion. It's almost like a recipe.
The first is mindfulness. First of all, just being aware that this is really hard right now before suppressing our pain or we're just too lost and problem solving. We don't have the perspective needed to say, hey, hey, this is really hard. So kind of validating your pain. First step. The second step is remembering that we aren't alone. You know, sometimes we think like something has gone wrong or we make a mistake. Actually, whoever said the it's like everyone else is being perfect.
And just you may feel that way, but the reality is everyone is making mistakes. This is what we all do. This is actually part of being human. And then you actively give yourself kindness and that can be again through. Words like you say to your friend, also, touch is a really easy way to give yourself kindness because we are tapping into the mammalian care system and as mammals, the first two years of life at for humans, we don't have language.
So the primary way parents convey care and compassion to infants who are crying and need to be sued to calm down is to touch. So you give yourself some touched up. You feel so supported and cared for. And that's also very powerful.
And my guess is that doing this the first couple of times, because I've now tried this myself a little bit, to be totally honest, it can feel a little bit weird and phony because you're really advocating to literally talk to yourself, literally hug yourself in some ways for the touch part, right?
Yeah, yeah. Or put your hands on your heart or something. Yeah, it does. It does feel awkward at first, right. It doesn't feel awkward at all to beat ourselves up because we're just so used to that. It's funny that it feels funny to treat ourselves like a friend, but it feels perfectly natural to treat ourselves like an enemy. But over time it gets easier. And then what will happen is at some point you'll let a little bit of it in and you'll actually let your warmth in.
You actually allow yourself to be moved by your own struggle, the way you might be moved by a friend you cared about who was telling you something that was very difficult. And once you actually see the impact of oh, I see. Actually, I can be moved by my own struggle. I can be warm, I can be supportive. And when you see the immediate difference that makes and your ability to cope, then it's like, OK, I want to do this again.
Someone once said the goal of practice is simply to become a compassionate mess. You know, you're still a mess, but when you're a compassionate mess, everything changes.
So when you're a self-critical, shaming mess, you're just hopeless, right? Nothing you can do. You can't get out of bed. But when you're a compassionate mess, you're still a mess pretending you aren't. But because you're carrying that care, you know, motivates you. OK, well, because I care. Is there anything I can do to help?
That compassionate approach also allows us to get over something else that can be hard when we're starting new habits, which is sort of procrastination or just this terrible fear that we're going to just fail, right?
Absolutely. There's actually a lot of research on self compassion and procrastination and how it reduces it because of what procrastination is, is fear of failure. And one thing that self compassion gives you is it makes it safe to fail when you know that if you fail, you won't desert yourself. You'll still be there for yourself. You'll still be kind and supportive to yourself. What it does is it makes it safe to fail. And really, really importantly, it allows you to learn from the failure.
I mean, it's a truism. Failure is our best teacher. We all know it's true. We've all experienced that is true. And yet we're so afraid of failing. But if we want to learn, how are we going to learn without failing? If failure is our best teacher, you know, it really does it make any sense? Oh, it does. If we think about the fact that people feel ashamed by failing because of that, they don't want to fail.
The motivation of self criticism is the motivation of fear. You better do it right or else I'm going to shame you. I'm going to hate you that you get it right and it kind of works. A lot of people have gone through grad school based on this fear, but it creates so many unintended consequences. Like it creates fear of failure. It creates anxiety, undermines your self confidence. All things which work directly against your ability to achieve your best self.
Compassion makes it safe to fail. And the motivation comes from love. You know, I want you to do better because I care about you. I don't want you to suffer. I care about you. I want you to reach your goals. How can I help? And that supportive attitude is actually so much more effective in helping us actually reach our goals.
And so for all those folks who are starting this new year thinking that the drill sergeant approach is going to be their best way to get the perfect beachbody or quarter less or whatever their New Year's resolution is, what's your final advice for them?
Yeah, so I would say imagine that you had the ultimate compassion coach. First of all, his very wise and you can't bullshit this coach. You know, this coach knows what needs to change. Not going to he knows that a good coach, if he or she is going to pretend that you're fine just the way you are because maybe maybe you aren't feeling healthy or maybe you really should be a little less because your is causing problems in your life so that wise coach can help you decide what does need to change and the good coach is going to help you get there as opposed.
You know, you may have had a coach in the past that just called you names and yelled at you all the time, but you were just so afraid that coach, you probably just gave up whatever they were trying to get you to do it all together, because who wants to be yelled at all the time?
Help Christians work on self compassion has convinced you that a kinder approach is in order this new year and the episodes that follow in this mini season, we'll turn to how we can apply this strategy to some of our most common. New Year's goals will tackle topics like food and dieting, exercise and body image and how to deal with our emotions before any of that to make sense. We all first need to accept that a bit more self compassion is in order.
It sounds so easy. Just be a good friend to yourself. But I know from personal experience that our reflex is to be meaner to ourselves than any real life enemy. So I want you to take some self compassion. Baby steps right away, find the right words and use the nicer tone when you talk to yourself. It takes practice, but the research shows you can become a kind coach. And if you need more pointers, I highly recommend Kristen's awesome books and her step by step self compassion meditations.
You should also be sure to check out her new book for yourself Compassion, which is hitting stores this June. The Happiness Lab is co-written and produced by Ryan Dilli. The show was mastered by Evan Viola and our original music was composed by Zachary Silver, special thanks to the entire Pushkin crew, including McLibel, Kali Migliore, Heather Fain, Sophie Crain, McKibbon, Eric Sandler, Jacob Weisberg and my agent Ben Davis. The Happiness Lab is brought to you by Pushkin Industries and me, Dr.