A self-compassionate mind doesn’t feel sorry for itself, and doesn’t justify or excuse itself. If you’re late for an appointment, self-compassion will suggest that instead of saying “I’m such a jerk,” or “I can’t help it, I’m always late,” you might say: “Okay I figured out what got in the way of getting to my appointment on time and now I know how to fix it.” You’ll feel encouraged. You might have some regret but no self-recrimination.
See, the thing is this: getting down on yourself is like putting a hole in your gas tank. It just leaves you with less get-up-and-go and you can’t make the changes you need to make. It’s entirely ineffective as a problem-solving method. And it’s hard on relationships – you end up using others to prop yourself up, and this can wear out friendships. In addition, self-criticism can become seductive. We may believe that it will help us avoid worse harm, or will keep us safe on the straight and narrow. Bringing up the painful incidents over and over in our memory only makes the problem worse – we become vulnerable to depression and we end up essentially paralyzed and unable to change or let go.
Many people have the belief that the ticket to achievement is to be hard on themselves: If they are tougher on themselves, they will be more likely to take action and make the needed changes. But this kind of self-talk actually increases anxiety and hopelessness, and it erodes motivation. It’s like using a cattle prod – in the short run it will get the cattle moving, but it doesn’t create lasting motivation. So instead of kicking yourself when you make a mistake, try instead to gently understand why you might have made that mistake. Accept your inherent mortality and humanity, and recognize that you are not alone. We all make mistakes. (Sometimes even two or three! Per year!)