You see an old friend who lost weight and looks amazing, and instead of feeling happy for her, you think "I wish I could lose this flab," as your spirit sinks.
When an amazing job opportunity comes up, you excitedly prepare like crazy for the interview, just to be told you didn't get the job. Again, your self-esteem plummets.
And dating is a smorgasbord of self-esteem slashers:
He didn't like me back. :(
Please tell me this guy is not the best I can do!
Is he really going to leave my text on READ?!?
Just when you're feeling dismal and need support, your low self-esteem kicks you while you're down. "You idiot, of course he wouldn't like you. Of course you didn't get the job. You actually thought you were good enough? Yeah, right! Only in your dreams. Back to reality. You suck. You're a total loser and I hate you." Yes, this sounds extremely harsh (and it is). Unfortunately, this is the real inner dialogue some of us endure. Can you relate?
Instead of helping us get through a tough patch, self-judgment and criticism take us down a spiral of sorrow.
The problem here is NOT you… it's the nature of self-esteem.
The general definition is "feeling good about yourself and your abilities, as compared to others".
See that? Self-esteem requires you to compare yourself to others, instead of just being the best version of yourself. Consider, for a moment, these synonyms for self-esteem: ego, egotism, pride, pridefulness, conceit, vanity, and self-regard.
Fewer and fewer of us now have healthy, balanced self-esteem. For most, research shows the desire for high self-esteem can lead to depression, feeling not enough, narcissism, constant comparisons with others, judgement, defensiveness, disappointment, anger, depression, and frustration.
Chasing high self-esteem is, at best, a roller coaster. At worst, it brings us to the brink on either side of the spectrum, either approval-chasing and self-obsessed, or self-loathing and defeated.
To those of you struggling with self-esteem, I invite you to practice self-compassion instead.
Self-compassion can be practiced by following three steps.
Awareness - Be present to your discomfort. Notice and feel it, instead of numbing or turning away from the pain. Say "I have feelings of (fill in the blank) coming up."
Kindness - Instead of judging, criticizing or berating yourself… try being patient, understanding and caring.
Common Humanity - When you’re hurting, remember that you are human and we are all flawed works-in-progress. Everyone fails, makes mistakes, suffers, and experiences hardships in life. Other people have felt how you felt. Not only that, but they have overcome this, and you can too.
Unlike self-esteem, self-compassion has been shown to counteract our physical response to stress, our fight, flight or freeze response. Practicing Awareness counteracts freezing, Kindness replaces the urge to fight, and Common Humanity
It has also been shown to improve happiness, life satisfaction, self-confidence, mental clarity, focus, and physical health, while reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. Practicing self-compassion has even been shown to stabilize glucose levels among people with diabetes.
Learning self-compassion means learning to self-sooth and be in control of yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions and leads to being a compassionate person who can compromise, apologize, and forgive others. It Improves our ability to see multiple perspectives and face difficult situations without ruminating or wallowing on how bad things are.
Unlike self-esteem, self-compassion is there for you when you're feeling down, comforting you like a warm blanket. Yet it's also there to push and motivate you when you're self-sabotaging and procrastinating.
So when you are being hard on yourself (judging, criticizing, insulting, sabotaging, hating, or harming, yourself), remember to
This acronym can help you remember the 3 steps to self-compassion: Kindness, Awareness, and Common Humanity.
Your emotions are NOT the enemy. When you learn to listen and attend to your emotions, your body, and your intuition, you have a guide to creating your best life. And working with a coach can accelerate this process. If you would like to learn more about self-compassion, self-love and having the love life of your dreams, CLICK HERE to schedule a one-on-one Love Life Strategy Session with an expert Love Coach.
The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff, PhD and Christopher Germer, PhD, The Guilford Press, 2018.