Your day/week/month/year feels like it’s off to a bad start. You would have liked for things to be going more smoothly, experiencing more ease. But they’re not. For a multitude of reasons, your ship is off course and you can’t seem to get back on track.
What is your internal narrative?
The world is out to get me
Just my luck; I don’t deserve any better
I’ve got to be tougher on myself than anyone else, that way I’ll never be caught by surprise
It’s time to buck up, grit my teeth and bare it
This sacrifice is necessary
I’d better analyze every single thing that went wrong, so I can make sure this never happens again
Any of these sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, humans evolved to be extra alert when it comes to threats and danger. In ancient times it was far more advantageous to overreact to potential threats than to overlook them. Sure, great for ancient times, but is this necessary now? Research suggests that by deliberately focusing on positive aspects of a situation--however small--can overwrite our natural tendency to focus on the the negative.
Does this mean you should ignore negative things in your life? Not quite. Rather than blocking out negative experiences, studies suggest that it is not necessary to decrease your response to these negative events...instead, practice other ways to focus on what is positive.
Self-Compassion in the face of difficulty
So you may wonder: What do I do when there is NOTHING going right in my life? You may start by taking a more compassionate approach with yourself. For some reason, we often respond to difficulty with taking
a harsh/critical attitude towards ourselves. There is a Buddhist idea known as the two arrows of suffering: the first arrow is the negative or painful event. It is the pain/mis
fortune/difficulty that is inevitable in life. The second arrow refers to the way we attack, lose patience with, and criticize ourselves. While we can’t always control the first arrow, we don’t have to add to the difficulty by shooting the second arrow. The way to avoid the second arrow is by deliberately practicing self-compassion.
“Wait!” you might be saying to yourself, “If I give myself compassion, isn’t that just giving up? Isn’t that being weak? Isn’t that...selfish?” These are common myths about self-compassion, but the truth is that being hard on yourself actually makes it harder to make positive changes in life.
Practicing self-compassion is no different from developing a new habit. It takes time, guidance, and most importantly, an intention to cultivate a better relationship with yourself.
Check out psychologist Kristin Neff’s website, one of my favorite resources for self-compassion exercises and more information about how self-compassion can benefit you.
How can you offer yourself a little more compassion today?