By Refuge Intern Katie Scott
Imagine this scene from a movie.
A girl walks in to her parents house visibly upset with something that has just happened to her. She starts to share with her mom and dad that she pitched an idea at work that she had spent hours on and was extremely proud of. However, when she gave the idea to her boss he shut it down immediately. The girl is drowning in what feels like the biggest failure of her life. We all know that feeling. We can connect to it because in some way we have all experienced this kind of hurt and rejection. In the next scene, the girl’s mom responds with “Well of course he said no, I heard your idea. You shouldn’t have gotten your hopes up, why would he consider anything you had to offer”?
What would your response be watching this? Pretend it was your closest friend or even your own child? For most of us, we cringe and want to come to her rescue- to comfort and encourage her.
Now consider the times that you have failed, messed something up, crumbled under pressure, or experienced rejection. How do you respond? If you are like me, it is not in the same way that you responded to this girl’s experience. We are so quick to comfort a friend, a spouse, our child, but too often we forget to extend that same grace to ourselves. We are sent down a road of negative thinking, “what made me think they would listen to me”, “I’m so stupid”, “I should’ve known”, etc. We are the mom in the movie that made us cringe.
So why do we do this? Why is it easier for us to be kind to others? There are probably many answers to this question. However, in Kristen Neff’s research on self-compassion she found that the biggest reason we treat ourselves this way is because we believe it is necessary to motivate us. That if we cut ourselves slack and realize our humanity we will be lazy and unsuccessful. But what Neff found is that this is the opposite of truth. Her research shows that this only keeps us motivated short-term. If we think back to the movie scene based on Neff’s studies the girl would be motivated at first maybe with hopes to prove to her mom she was capable, but ultimately very likely to avoid pitching new ideas at all because the consequences are too scary. What if the mom had responded in a more nurturing way, comforting her daughter and asking her what she needs from her to put herself back out there? The research shows the results would be much different. She could risk it again knowing that she was valuable worthy of kindness and belonging not because of something she did but because she was human and we all deserve it. We are so much more likely to show up fully in life, to do our best, when we know that we will be accepted, loved, and valued regardless of the outcome.
We are wired to need this kind of experience. Our bodies are healthier when we have it. When feeling attacked our bodies release cortisol (a stress hormone), which is what is happening when we criticize ourselves. However, since we are wired for warmth, gentle touch, and soft vocalizations our bodies release oxytocin and opiates (feel good hormones) when we receive it. Because of this, self-compassion is strongly related to less anxiety, better mental well-being, less depression, less perfectionism, as well as higher levels of connectedness, and life satisfaction.
At Refuge we want to go with you on your journey toward self-compassion. We want to give you tools that can help you practice this in daily life and remind you how much value you bring by simply being.
Research from Kristen Neff’s TedTalk: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion
Please follow us on social media!