The other day, while having a conversation, my interlocutor said: “I need to be self-critical, I need to judge myself if I make a mistake. I can’t just pretend that nothing happened.”
How many of us don’t think the same? We beat ourselves up for every mistake we make. We shame ourselves and get into a self-blame and self-judgement spiral, hoping that in this way we’ll be better next time.
The reality is that, by beating ourselves up, we spend precious time and energy on this instead of finding a solution and moving forward. We get self-absorbed and we just think about us instead of thinking of how we can learn from this situation and ensure we’ll not repeat the same mistakes.
On the other hand, by using discernment to look at each situation, we get disentangled from this self-blame game and we move towards taking responsibility for our mistakes and moving faster towards a solution.
Imagine you had a presentation at work and the data you presented was all wrong. You wish the earth was opening and you could just disappear. And that’s not enough. The self-talk that you gave yourself is tougher than the scold your boss was giving you. “How could I be so stupid? I’m such a failure! I’ve lost my credibility! Nobody will trust me again, and who can blame them? I’m worthless! I’m not good enough for this job! Probably they’ll fire me soon!”
Probably many of us use some of these words or had some of these thoughts. We maybe felt we should punish ourselves, as we deserved it! And what happened as a result? Our head was swirling, we couldn’t eat or overate, most probably we had sleepless nights, felt demotivated and most likely we’ve been less productive and made some more mistakes because we just couldn’t focus.
With self-compassion, we can make a shift. Imagine the same situation, but a different dialogue: “Oh dear, you messed it up really bad! Presenting the wrong data was not good! The leadership team didn’t appreciate it. They got quite upset. (This is the mindfulness component of self-compassion.) You must feel very bad and upset, it must be very difficult for you, as you’ve worked a lot and you like to provide excellent work. (This is the kindness component of self-compassion.) It’s normal to be upset. Anyone in your situation would be. And making mistakes happens sometimes to everyone. You are not the only one. (This is the common humanity component of self-compassion.) You can’t change things, what’s done is done. But you can redo the presentation and send it with the correct data. You can also figure out how you got to make such a mistake and ensure you won’t make it again. (This is the yang self-compassion.)
The difference between the first and the second type of dialogue is that the first one is a self-judgmental one while the second one is using discernment instead of criticism and judgment. Being compassionate and using discernment helps not to spend time on blaming ourselves, but on evaluating the situation and taking action. It’s more efficient and it’s also kinder. It’s allowing us to take more responsibility and be more motivated to repair things not because of fear or shame but because we genuinely want to do better next time.
If you want to learn more about how to use discernment instead of self-judgement and self-criticism, I invite you to sign up for our next Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program starting soon, joining other human beings on this journey.
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