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June 18, 2018 Monday 01:13:20 PM IST

How to Be Self- Compassionate

Leadership Instincts

We need to move past self-criticism and negative self-talk to be happier, more resilient, and more successful at work, say experts. Missing a deadline, embarrassing ourselves during a presentation, or snapping at a colleague, are normally part of work life. Most people jump in to self criticism during such phases. Instead, be self compassionate, say the experts. 

Research on self-compassion shows that it’s unequivocally linked to mental well-being, including less stress, anxiety, depression, and perfectionism. The inevitable negative experiences and emotions don’t disappear; but our responses to those experiences and feelings change. By relating to rather than avoiding negative experiences and feelings, greater well-being emerges.

Self-compassion also engenders resilience—the ability to bounce forward after setbacks. It empowers you to be nimble and flexible and gives you the ability to identify problems, accept negative feedback from others, and change habits that are no longer aligned with your best interests.

Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion at work and avoid the pitfalls of self-criticism.

1. Find physical soothing techniques that work for you. So many of us suffer throughout our day—not just from the setbacks we experience, but from how we catastrophize these setbacks. We feel stressed, and we want to avoid the stress, so we get involved with an off-topic or less important activity—known as presenteeism—like cyberloafing, slacking, or writing emails.

But, when you feel ashamed or overwhelmed, it helps to anchor yourself in your body in a way that not only comforts your mind, but also helps down-regulate your physical response to stress. Becoming present in our bodies is the antidote to spinning out of control.

In such occasions, you can try taking a walk, keeping a cozy sweater at your desk, treating yourself to a cup of tea, or listening to your favorite music. Repeating phrases that feel right to you, but are still kind, can be good for your psyche.

2. Be a friend to yourself. We all feel like frauds from time to time. When you find yourself in self-deprecation mode, remember that most people suffer from “imposter syndrome”—the feeling that you are just pretending, that you don’t really belong, or will be found out, or are truly inadequate. The fact is that everyone you work with, no matter how self-assured they seem, experiences self-doubt. This is the human condition. Negative self-talk is just that—it’s not reality.

One powerful exercise to encourage self-compassion is to take a situation in which you feel caught and try to visualize a friend in the exact same situation. Imagine what you’d say and how you’d respond to them, then direct those same words and responses toward yourself.

3. Ask for help. Many of us think that we need to always appear “professional,” which we equate with being stoic, handling things on our own. Over time, this “I’ve got it” attitude begins to wear thin, though, and we realize we can’t do our jobs alone.

That’s when it might be time to experiment with giving someone else the chance to support you. Ask for help or for perspective from someone you trust; or say “yes” when they offer to help you on their own. It might feel awkward at first to open ourselves up to receiving care from others, but it feels good for them to give to you, as well.


How self compassionate are you?