NB: This article forms part of a series about habits for happiness and living your best life. The initial articles focus on three foundation habits to set the framework for 12 habits to follow.
When we make a mistake, we fear this damages our success in life or work. Whether it’s a gut bombing failure in a task or process we hope to succeed in, or a minor mess up, we berate ourselves. We may face criticism from someone we love or from a work colleague or boss. What hurts is our self-criticism and rumination over what we should have done.
I know this from my life of attempting to do things perfectly and realising it’s impossible. I feel more compassion for people I love when they make a mistake. But for my failings, I find it hard to let it go and free myself from guilt or worry.
The key: Use self-compassion as an act of your will. Fire up self-compassion. It’s a conscious mental action you take. To give credit to an expert: check out the work of Kristin Neff.
Imagine you’ve set a goal at work to use a streamlined approach to caring for your clients or patients. It’s a clear action plan to follow, but this day you are swamped and overloaded with tasks and mental lists. You miss a step in your workflow and a client is unhappy with the outcome. Your supervisor knows about it and gives you a look and a word of dissatisfaction. What do you do?
In a moment of threat or stress, it’s normal to have an initial emotional reaction to the negative event . Our reactions include distress, fear, or a need to defend our actions or mistakes. It’s what we do next that matters.
Researchers at the School of Psychology and Speech pathology at Curtin University in Australia found that, we need to regulate negative emotions to be compassionate with ourselves. This works in reverse too; when we are self-compassionate, this helps regulate our emotions in hard times. .
What does this all mean? When we make mistakes, self-compassion and regulating our emotions work together in both directions. How do we do this?
If we stay quiet, pause, and have time to think about our mistake, we allow ourselves to recover. This helps us choose thoughts and actions that calm our emotions, clarify the problem, and soften the blow of reactions from people around us.
The solution to this is self compassion.
Self-Compassion is a way of relating to ourselves in three areas:
Self compassion is not a fuzzy feeling of sweetness toward ourselves. It’s an act we choose and requires courage. The courage to accept ourselves as we are. We need a specific action plan of self-kindness that we can carry into later pains and trials.
When we actively initiate self-compassion, we create peaceful and successful lives as people of worth and value, despite our mistakes.
Take five minutes to write about an event at work or home where you messed up, made a mistake and felt upset because of your actions. What led up to it? what did you do to improve the situation? try writing some statements to yourself to offer compassion and understanding?
Schaefer SM, Morozink Boylan J, van Reekum CM, Lapate RC, Norris CJ, Ryff CD, et al. (2013) Purpose in Life Predicts Better Emotional recovery from Negative Stimuli. PLoS ONE 8(11): e80329. doin:10. 1371/journal.pone.0080329
Finlay-Jones AL, Rees CS, Kane RT (2015) Self-Compassion, Emotion Regulation and Stress among Australian psychologists: testing and Emotion regulation Model of Self-Compassion using Structural Equation Modeling. PLoS ONE (10)7: e0133481. doi:10. 1371/journal.pone.0133481
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I’m the creator of Minutes to Happy and your go-to counsellor and wellness coaching companion.
I’m here to guide you in becoming your bravest self (no matter what wellness worries and chronic health challenges are plonked in your path).