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If Your Compassion Does Not Include Yourself, It Is Incomplete

If Your Compassion Does Not Include Yourself, It Is Incomplete

If your best friend stood you up for a date at the movies, would you be forgiving and understanding when he/she explained what happened?

If you made that same mistake to your best friend, would you be forgiving and understanding of your own mistake? Would you mentally beat yourself up for days or would you just chalk it up to human error and circumstances?

That ability for you to be understanding of your own mistakes in life is self-compassion.

Do you give more consideration for others when they make mistakes than you do for yourself? If you do, then your need to evaluate your self-compassion, as it has a huge impact on your mental well being.

We can have good self-esteem but little self-compassion.

You may have good self-esteem, meaning you think you are a person of value and therefore you believe in your abilities. However, you can have good self-esteem, but without self-compassion you will struggle to accept your failures as human error or circumstantial.

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Without self-compassion, you will be extremely hard on yourself and your personal mistakes, which therefore will affect your self-esteem negatively. If you always criticize yourself when bad things happen, then your mental health can also be adversely affected. Not being too hard on yourself, or having self-compassion is essential to your mental well being, so you better know if you have it or not.

Self-compassion is the ability to be understanding toward yourself.

Having good self-compassion means that you are understanding and considerate toward yourself, as you would be for a dear friend. Often in life, people are hard on themselves, hoping that it will propel them to greater success.

Theories of self-compassion explain that your success is more likely to happen if you have good self-compassion. The reason is because you are more likely to survive set backs, mistakes, and trials with a greater ability to rebound, get back up and try again because you are self-compassionate.

Dr. Kristen Neff is a a world renowned expert on self-compassion. She explains that self-compassion involves providing yourself with understanding when you fail:[1]

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Dr. Neff explains that three components make up self-compassion. Understanding these three components can help you understand whether you possess self compassion. These components include: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Instead of being overly critical of yourself, be kind to yourself.

In possessing self-kindness you are not judgmental toward yourself or your failings. It also means that you aren’t overly critical of yourself. You look at things realistically, but allow yourself to accept failure as part of the human process. If you don’t allow yourself self-kindness and instead are judgmental of yourself, you will experience negative consequences. Scientific American examined self-compassion and explained the result of self-judgment on an individual’s mental health:[2]

“Unfortunately, self-criticism can lead to generalized hostility (toward oneself and others), anxiety and depression; these are problems that can handicap people from reaching their full potential.”

Instead of indulging in sadness, recognize that suffering happens to everyone of us.

Common humanity is the second component associated with self-compassion. This is simply your ability to recognize your life’s ups and downs as something that happen to all people. Dr. Neff describes common humanity as “recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience”. Life ups and downs happen to all people. If you think they are happening to only you or that your pain is not also felt by others experiencing the same or similar situations, then you are isolating yourself. Recognizing that suffering in life happens to all people, including yourself, is part of having self-compassion.

Instead of suppressing your emotions, acknowledge them.

The third component to having self-compassion is mindfulness. According to Dr. Neff this involves:

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“a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them”.

For some this would be considered having emotional intelligence. It is the ability to acknowledge your feelings and emotions, but not wallowing in them. Repressing your feelings does not help you with self-compassion. You need to allow yourself to experience emotions, but with an awareness that your emotions should not swallow you up.

To build your self-compassion, stop being so critical of yourself.

Lack of self-compassion is tied to being overly critical of oneself. Just like most aspects of self identity they are often tied to childhood. How we were spoken to or treated as a child can have a great impact on our self-compassion. If you were told “you are useless”‘or “you can’t do anything right” on a regular basis as a child, you may carry those thoughts and memories with you into adulthood. Even if you don’t believe those words for yourself today, they can subconsciously or unconsciously impact your ability to be compassionate with yourself. Also meaning, if you fail, those criticisms of being useless or unable to do anything right may come back to haunt you, whether they are conscious thoughts or unconscious thoughts.

Therapy can be a great help in uncovering those defeating statements that may be feeding your soul and mind when you fail. Those defeating statements are preventing you from being compassionate toward yourself. Consider therapy if you lack self-compassion and especially if you can’t identify the core cause. Identifying the core cause can help you dispel and discredit those harmful words previously spoken about you or to you.

There is a self-compassion assessment which let you find out how well you personally provide compassion to yourself. You can try the test here: Self-Compassion Assessment and take the following steps to love yourself better.

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Emma Seppala[3] identified some practical ways that you can help you boost your self-compassion today. Here are her tips:

    Self-compassion may come easier to some and more difficult for others. It is an important component of your well being that is worth taking the time and effort to improve upon.

    “…research suggests that self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By tapping into our inner wellsprings of kindness, acknowledging the shared nature of our imperfect human condition, we can start to feel more secure, accepted, and alive.”[4]

    Dr. Neff eloquently summarizes the greatest benefit of self-compassion, which in essence is acceptance of ones self, imperfections and all.

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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    Last Updated on October 30, 2019

    How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

    How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

    Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

    In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

    Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

    You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

    What is the Stages of Change Model?

    Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

    Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

    Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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      The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

      The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

      The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

      The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

      1. Precontemplation
      2. Contemplation
      3. Determination
      4. Action
      5. Maintenance
      6. Termination

      How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

      To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

        Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

        Stage 1: Precontemplation

        At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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        For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

        Stage 2: Contemplation

        At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

        You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

        The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

        Stage 3: Preparation

        At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

        Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

        Stage 4: Action

        When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

        Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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        Stage 5: Maintenance

        After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

        Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

        Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

        Stage 6: Termination

        Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

        However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

        How long does each stage take?

        You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

        So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

        The limitations of this model

        The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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        Require the ability to set a realistic goal

        For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

        If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

        Difficult to judge your progress

        The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

        Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

        Conclusion

        The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

        While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

        Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
        [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
        [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
        [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
        [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
        [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
        [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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