Updated: Nov 18, 2020
On a personal and professional level, mindfulness and self-compassion are two skills that I am immensely grateful to be integrating into my life and supporting others to do.
Because we get so caught up in thinking about what happened in the past or thinking about what's going to happen in the future, we miss out on the 'here and now'. Mindfulness is all about just noticing the moment we are in right now with openness and curiosity. When we are mindful, we are free from judgement (about ourselves or other people).
Our minds have a knack for moving really fast from thought to thought so mindfulness is also the skill of noticing when one's mind wonders and bringing their attention back to the 'here and now' (something each of us are likely to do over and over and over again...because... well... minds!).
We are too often struggling with thoughts and feelings – either trying to get rid of them or trying to ignore them. Mindfulness is a skill that helps us to drop that struggle by learning how to just notice our thoughts and feelings and allow them to there even if we aren’t so keen on them.
Our self-talk - that part of our mind that tells us how good or bad we are or how right or wrong we are - as a default, plays the 'I'm not good enough story'. It's playing out constantly our failings compared to others and is programmed to give us a really hard time (a bit like having an internal bully).
I often say to my clients, "I'd love it to get home and my mind says something to me like: Lindy, let's have a chat about what worked well today and what didn't work so well today.... I noticed you didn't call back Lisa. This is because your expectation was unrealistic and you didn't plan it out carefully. That's okay, you can learn from this. You will apologise to Lisa, review how you set goals and manage your time, and commit to a more realistic time to call her. You’ve got this".
The reality is that no one's mind does that automatically! Instead, the 'I'm not good enough story' takes over and my self-talk sounds like, "What's wrong with you! You suck at getting back to people. Now Lisa is going think you don't care about her and she doesn't matter. What kind of friend are you!? You just can't get anything right!!" etc etc etc
Is that motivating, inspiring, helpful or life changing for the better!?
There is a really important difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. Self-esteem is measured by achievement / outcomes, whereas self-compassion is all about connecting with the suffering us humans inevitably experience in our lives - whether we are worried, stressed, in conflict with someone etc.
Self-compassion offers us some soothing self-talk. This doesn't sound like, "I'll be right" or "Chin up" , but rather "Wow, this moment is really hard for me. This is a moment of suffering. Many people will feel similar to me and it's a part of being human. May I be kind to myself. May I be okay and feel free from this suffering". Perhaps our self-talk would then go on to say, “I’m upset with myself because I’m committed to be a reliable and caring friend and things didn't work out as I expected. I wonder what I can do from now...".
Acknowledgements: I have completed training in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and mindfulness, as well as follow Kristen Neff (a world-renowned expert on self-compassion).