Self-compassion isn’t complacency.
Giving yourself grace isn’t the same as giving yourself excuses.
Appreciating, even liking, your body as is, right now, even if it’s not socially approved OR looking or feeling the way you’d like it to isn’t giving up or ‘lowering your standards.’
These practices, these mindsets, aren’t wimpy, they aren’t failings, they aren’t weaknesses.
These practices are actually the keys to being able to truly change, to create transformation; they are the necessary tools for creating a positive impact on your body composition, health, and fitness.
“Transformation cannot happen in a hostile environment.”
These were the words one of my beautiful clients said to me after our first few weeks working together. She’d attended a weekend seminar, and this was one of the ‘a-ha’ moments she came away with.
The seminar had nothing to do with weight loss or fitness, but the message stuck with her loud and clear: Harboring negative thoughts about herself and her body was not going to make any kind of real, meaningful or positive transformation possible. It would simply sabotage her efforts and keep her stuck.
Why is it that can’t we settle and create living communities on Antarctica as we have in so many other places across our globe?
Because the conditions are so hostile, just surviving in small numbers for limited amounts of time with training and supplies is a difficult task.
It’s not impossible to survive, but it’s extremely challenging on a daily basis, even for trained and prepared scientists. Forget planting crops, or building long-term shelters, or thriving and growing there—survival is the name of the game.
You can think of mindset as being the same way.
If we are harboring consistently negative, harsh, judgmental, even hateful feelings towards our bodies, we are setting up hostile conditions, not unlike the extremes of the Sahara or deserts in Mongolia, or that of Antarctica.
Survival is possible. Thriving, growing, and positively transforming is not.
On the other hand, if our mindsets, the way in which we view ourselves, the quality of our self-talk (and we ALL talk to ourselves, all day long), are more nurturing, calmer, less of an assault on the senses, even—dare I say—a bit more positive or at least accepting, then that’s a place where something beautiful can grow and thrive.
We often think that we change first (lose weight, or body fat %, or inches, stick to that diet or that fitness program), and THEN we get to start feeling okay about ourselves. We think we have to ‘behave’ first, then we get to say we like ourselves.
The trouble is, if while we’re trying to ‘behave’ ourselves into that state where we’ll finally be acceptable, or get to feel good about ourselves, we spend all our time harassing ourselves, calling ourselves names, focusing on shortcomings, small ‘failures,’ and harboring negative and harsh thoughts about ourselves and our bodies, we become SO much less likely to actually reach that place where we’ll finally be okay.
Even if we DO reach that magical end point at which we finally deem we’re good enough to like and be proud of: that weight loss goal, seeing that 80- or 90-day program through, finally fitting into those pants, we might just find (thanks to that hostile mindset) that it’s not enough.
“Wait, I was supposed to feel good about myself when ____________________,” we might catch ourselves thinking. But we still don’t.
We don’t because we’ve continued to harbor that hostile environment that lives in our own heads and hearts.
We still carry the NGE around with us, and it can warp our view of ourselves. It can drive us to take on another diet, chase another workout or body change goal, to restrict what we eat overzealously, or to just give up altogether because ‘nothing we do really matters anyway.’
Siberia in our hearts, and the Sahara in our minds doesn’t create an environment where positive transformation can happen.
“What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” ~ Robin Sharma
When we nurture self-loathing, or negative body image issues, we get more—deeper, more pernicious amounts of it. It grows deeper roots, spreads, and takes even more effort to remove.
In contrast, what if….
What if we nurtured a different mindset and set of feelings, of self-beliefs?
What if we used that same energy, gave that same level of attention and depth of feeling and belief to feeling good about ourselves?
What if we focused more of that time and precious mental space on nurturing self-acceptance—without qualifications?
“Do we place our attention and energy on the behaviors and outcomes we want in our children, co-workers, and diet and exercise regimes in order to create that which we desire, or do we place our attention on the things we want less of?
When we place sincere effort on the attributes we want to see, and can let go of those that no longer serve or support, we have greater chance of success in achieving our desired outcomes.”
~ Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, http://positivitystrategist.com/focus-grows/
Instead of getting caught up in the ‘fear and loathing’ game, when we focus our attention and energy on what we DO want more of in our lives, we are so much more likely to make the choices that align with that vision or intention.
Instead of thinking that we have to be ‘x’ pounds, or ‘x’ size, etc. to be good and worthy, we can focus on what we are already doing to bring ourselves closer to that vision of who we want to be in this world—on the inside and the outside.
We can continue to prioritize and strategize ways to build the body and life we want, and devote our attention to making those choices happen day by day.
We can practice shaking off the old, ugly, unhelpful messages we may have learned and ingrained for so long, and replacing them with a proactive and positive mantras or affirmations. We can cultivate a gritty, forward-thinking mindset that gets excited about creating the transformation we envision for ourselves.
We can cultivate laser-like focus on becoming more of ourselves, stepping more into our own talents, skills and personal superpowers—those cool things we’re just really good at doing.
We can focus on being more, and not less.
And we give ourselves both permission and motivation to pursue those goals of being more, better, happier, more accomplished, more at peace and more satisfied through rejecting old thought patterns and harnessing the powers of self-compassion: treating and talking to ourselves kindly, recognizing our humanness, forgiving our mistakes, and appreciating our strengths and gifts.
“There is nothing noble or productive about smacking your inner self around when you’ve made a mess of things. But a kinder, gentler approach will help you feel better and do better.”
~ Polly Campbell, “Self-Compassion Can Soothe the Inner Critic”
So really, in the end, self-compassion isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity: if we are truly going to do better, to grow in our abilities, to change our habits for the better (and for good!) we have to drop the inner critic and enlist our compassion.
- Have you been in the habit of berating yourself for your mistakes, past and/or present?
- How can you use self-compassion to help you do better in your life right now?
Can’t wait to hear all about it.
As always, send me a message anytime you need support OR want to share your ‘a-ha’s’ or successes. Here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I love helping when I can, and cheering right along with you when you have these mindset and behavior change wins.
Keep focusing on what you’re building,
And to get more encouragement, guidance, support, fun workouts and more, sign up here:
You’ll immediately get a copy of my Jump Start Your Fitness workout menu, plus new ideas, strategies, and systems to increase your quality of life delivered to your inbox each week.