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I took my daughter to the park for the first time last week and it was awesome.
She's 9 months old and completely loved the sandpit.
A long smoothed out path was left in the sand as her bum shuffled along.
But park time has brought a new problem.
Other peoples kids.
Like the "charming" little lad who threw sand at her.
His mum reckoned he was only trying to make friends.
To be honest I pulled the hair of enough girls when I was little to kinda understand that.
But it didn't stop a side of me rearing up that I didn't know existed.
A scene from the 80's film Predator came to mind when Mac warns Dillon if he gives away their position
"....I'll bleed ya, real quiet. Leave ya here. Got that?"
I know.....a bit of an over reaction to a three year old.
Didn't stop me thinking it though.
That's the thing about bad thoughts.
You can't really stop them from coming, they turn up and infect your skull.
The thing negative thoughts are more often aimed at ourselves.
You think it's just you that beats yourself up?
Nearly all of us do it to some extent.
The way that many of us talk to ourselves is crazy when you stop and consider it.
Nobody criticizes you as badly as you criticize yourself.
We say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to another person.
But what good does it do?
Does it inspire us or push us on to be a better version of ourselves?
It just reinforces a negative self image, which leads to more negative self talk....and so it tail spins out of control until crash landing with a large spoon and a tub of Haagen Dazs.
(Which obviously ends in more negative self talk.."why did I eat that? Weak willed loser, never gonna get anywhere")
There is an alternative though.
I was recently introduced to it on a coaching course.
It's called self compassion.
I know…the name isn't great.
My first response was “what's this soft, new age nonsense”...but hear me out.
Cos the concept is awesome.
Instead of being a dick to yourself you speak to yourself in the way you'd speak to a good pal.
It's mind blowing but it's actually ok to be nice to yourself.
Here's the deal.
When you screw up or life doesn't seem to go the way you want it to you take a minute or two and say something nice to yourself instead of the usual nonsense
Wondering why you're a screw up, blah blah blah.
However this isn’t a free ticket to go around doing whatever you want and letting yourself of the hook.
Research conducted on the subject (mainly by Dr Kristin Neff – she literally wrote the book on the subject) clearly shows self compassion helps people get more done and sustain their work .
There’s three key points to it.
1. Self kindness. 2. Common humanity. 3. Mindfulness.
Self kindness is pretty self explanatory.
Being kind to yourself.
Nope it’s not an excuse to chow down on 6 jam doughnuts or chug through a packet of Rothmans and not feel bad.
Cos that isn’t being kind to yourself.
It’s about doing things that actually make feel you better and getting through the tough times.
If that sounds a bit soft for your tastes you can simply consider it as not being a dick.
Common humanity is recognizing that you’re not alone.
Some days are so crap it feels like some divine being is picking only on you. Toying around to see how much crap you can put up with.
Life isn’t fair.
It’s not fair for you, me or anyone else. Realising that everyone gets screwed around sometimes, that you’re not the only one who has bad days or messes up, prevents you from slipping into a hole of “poor ol’ me” self indulgence.
Mindfulness is about being aware of what you’re thinking and feeling without being judgemental.
The best analogy I’ve come across is that it’s like standing behind a waterfall with the waterfall being your thoughts and feelings.
Observing what’s going on inside without getting tied down by it. Just peeking under the bonnet and seeing what's going on with the workings.
Originally I was a bit of a cynic.
But I gave it a go. I even bought the book to understand it further.
(I had to keep hiding the cover so people on the tube couldn't see what I was reading...hiding it in an old copy of Playboy, much less embarrassing).
Surprisingly it took a little bit of practice at first but it has made a difference in the way I think and approach life.
For a start, this blog post would never have happened.
Old critical me would be thinking how this maybe poorly received, laughed at or may have left me seeming a new age hippie wannabe.
But what’s the worse that happens?
Self kindness – I’ve tried to put some info into the world that may really help somebody.
Common humanity – everyone gets embarrassed sometimes.
Mindfulness – if I feel embarrassed I’ll get over it. It’s hardly the end of the world.
If you’re stuck in a cycle that you’re desperately trying to break. Whether it’s with food, booze, cigarettes, work….whatever.
Giving yourself a break can be the start of getting the cycle to break.
You’re not perfect and life’s not perfect.
In a weird way it’s almost like the perfect match.
All we need to do is find ways to get over ourselves and enjoy the ride.
If you want to now any more about self compassion check out Dr Neff’s Ted talk here.