Our modern culture encourages self-criticism because it believes that it actually motivates us to be successful and without fail, frowns on any individual who believes in extending compassion to themselves. What the society is not aware of, is that self-criticism is actually self-destructive motivator; is like giving a child a hand-grenade to play with - it will eventually blow them up. Self-criticism plants the feeling of unhappiness and lack of self-esteem in its victim and that feeling stays with them even if they become successful later in life.
Self-criticism becomes a ball of chain that holds its prey down in the long run.
Society needs to preach self-compassion. Self-compassion is the ability of one to not only feel sympathy for others, but also the ability to enclose themselves in that compassion; being kind, taking one's interests and being into consideration during trials and disappointments. People with self-compassion tend to:
- find happiness,
- feel as part of their society,
- be content with who they are in life,
- gain in-depth understanding of the world easily,
- be responsible for themselves and their actions,
- be optimistic; they do not let adversity define them.
- easily rebound from their mistakes with ease because of their emotional resilience.
One of the fatal mistakes that people tend to make is to confuse self-compassion with self-pity; the truth is, the two are just a world apart. A person with the former personality knows how to treat themselves with love and sympathy whilst a person with the latter is usually prone to exaggerating their personal problems and will easily drift into self-absorbed sorrow over their misfortune.
A person who suffers from self-pity has a habit of believing that they are victims of the situation even if evidence says otherwise. People with self-pity are usually prone to invite everyone and anyone who cares enough to listen to them to their misery party and anyone who tries to assist them by trying to shake them from that emotional path is deemed to be an enemy.
Take an example of an example of two people with the same predicament but with different temperament:
Student A and Student B sat for their end of year examinations. Both of the students failed the examination and par the College Board regulations, they are both required to resit for their examinations.
Student A was disappointed with the results; he sat down and went over the things that might have led to him failing. Amongst the list were lack of motivation and poor study habits. He told himself that failure is part of life and should never define a person but what should, is the actions that follow the setback. He decided to step up and be responsible towards his school work and study hard and smart in preparation for his retake.
Student B on the other hand blamed his lecturers for not being good enough, he claimed that he was not given enough time to prepare himself (even though he had a whole year to do so); he also claimed that the exam was leaked to some students but when asked to bring forward evidence or to bring the case to the board he claimed he had no time for that; above all, he argued that the lecturers at his college hate him and that is why they failed him (he wrote the examination online and he got his marks before he left the exam room). He however overlooked the fact that he did not attend most of his classes; he came drunk to the exam room.
The difference between the two students is that Student A owned up to his mistakes first and then extended self-compassion to himself whilst Student B decided to wallop in self-pity and victimised himself.
Self-compassion is having the skill of giving one's best even after going through adversity because of the awareness and acknowledgement that failure and part and parcel of life and as such should not be feared. It the ability to transcend disappointment and seeing one's self as capable but above all is having flexible mind-set rather than a rigid one that will enable them to bounce back.
People who are self-compassionate usually treat themselves kindly and fairly and therefore tend to develop emotional resilience. Simply put, self-compassion is practising the Reverse Golden Rule: treat yourself as you would treat others. It should be noted that Reverse Golden Rule is best practised by an individual who already practice the Golden Rule.
Ways to improve self-compassion:
- Learn to forgive yourself for any mistakes you have committed in the past and take in account that mistakes are part of life and therefore you are bound to make them in the future. Self-judgement does not solve any problem, as matter of fact it makes matters worse as it makes an individual see all their wrongs.
- Give yourself positive talks; express your gratitude to yourself for all the times you have managed to meet your goals or have risen above failure. Avoid down-talking yourself at any cause.
- Treat yourself the same way you will treat someone you care about who is going through difficulties.
- Give yourself an occasional hugs especially whenever going through disappointments. Practice mind and spiritual purification and self-reflection activities such as yoga.