I’ve long advocated that self-care is a responsibility, not a luxury if you are in any way supporting or leading others. We cannot consistently and sustainably be strong, compassionate and effective if we aren’t treating ourselves with compassion and acknowledging ourselves as strong and effective individuals.
Often we move through life thinking it’s normal to be self-critical. It’s modest and selfless and makes space for others to shine. But the opposite is in fact true. Kristin Neff explains that when we are self-critical we are in fact literally attacking ourselves. In these moments we release cortisol in the body (the stress chemical that used to be very helpful when we were at risk of being eaten by lions), which can be damaging to our internal systems. Our body reads attack in the same way regardless if it’s a lion chasing us, an angry boss shouting at us or our own internal self-sabotage.
So what can we do? Basically, the antidote to self-attack is self-compassion and self-care, as Kristin Neff explains:
‘When we soothe our painful feelings with the healing balm of self-compassion, not only are we changing our mental and emotional experience, we’re also changing our body chemistry.’
It is not selfish to treat ourselves with compassion, because if we fill ourselves with compassion it’s more readily available to be given to others. If we keep our own containers full it’s much easier to approach other people and situations with the compassion we were hoping to achieve by being modest and selfless in the first place.
Imagine what the world would be like if we all created habits and tools for ourselves that buoyed us up everyday, rather than beat us down?
It’s time to change this conversation. Because too many people I’ve met along the way are burning out, feeling stressed, feeling less than inspired and energised because we live in an environment that congratulations self-criticism rather than self-compassion.
If you are reading this then you are probably already convinced that this makes complete sense. What I ask of you is to fully embrace and share the notion of self-compassion and self-care. Be the early adopters, explain to others that the old thinking doesn’t make sense, share with them that the future of sustainable caring of others in whatever capacity that takes depends on us prioritising our own wellbeing.