Written by Sarah Bogorad Mintz, DPT, Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Pilates Instructor
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Whether it’s a day you embrace or not, the principle of the holiday is hard to argue with: showing those you love that you care. (And, as some critics cry out, the same applies to every other day of the year, too!)
But all this planning for our nearest and dearest begs the question: when it comes to love and attention, how easily do we give OURSELVES that same care we’re expected to give others?
How self-compassionate are you?
For most, self-care doesn’t come easily at all! Taking a self-compassion quiz left me amazed…I am so resistant when it comes to cutting myself slack! And I’m not alone. Buddhist scholars and Western psychologists alike warn of the dangers of negative self-talk — being judgmental is human nature, but unexamined, the habit takes a terrible toll on health and well-being.
With a backdrop of nonstop criticism from that little voice in our heads, it’s easy to see how we’d view self-love efforts negatively too, labelling them as “overly indulgent” or “self-absorbed.” But let’s take a step back; this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Why is self-care important?
“As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all beings.” His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
In the Buddhist tradition, self-compassion is revered as an essential building block to being compassionate with others. And the same is echoed in Western traditions. Take the Golden Rule, for example: neglecting our own self-care leaves us depleted, which in turn leaves us neglecting those around us. Or in other words, if we don’t put our own oxygen mask on first, how can we hope to be of service to others?
Think back to a time when you were stretched super thin, and self-care was the last thing on your mind. How available were you to serve your loved ones and community? How willing were you to take time to practice what Buddhists call compassion and Westerners call the Golden Rule? Showing yourself compassion is, at its core, good for the world!
Distinguishing between self-compassion and self-confidence is important, though. In a recent New York Times article on the topic, there’s a great critique of self-confidence: it’s a slippery slope to overestimating one’s abilities, and the crushing pressure to be a “superhuman.” On the other hand, self-compassion does the opposite, calling for a loving embrace of your own humanity — imperfections and limitations and all! The practice of self-compassion keeps us connected: more available to serve others, empathetic towards our flaws and those of our fellow man, and more objective about ourselves and the world around us. Now what could be more important than that?
Tips for practicing self-compassion
Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion expert featured in the above New York Times article, distills three elements of self-compassion (summarized below). The next time you notice that critical voice inside your head yammering on about something, practice correcting that negativity with these approaches instead:
- Self-kindness vs. self-judgment: When we inevitably do our human thing (fall short of expectations), practice being kind to yourself rather than self-critical.
- Common humanity vs. isolation: Remember that suffering and inadequacy is part of our shared human experience. You’re the opposite of alone in this!
- Mindfulness vs. over-identification: Instead of letting negativity carry you away (AKA over-identification), put that emotion in its rightful place by using steps one and two above.
Research shows that the more we practice self-compassion, the easier the habit becomes. This is why acts of self-care are so important. They ritualize the practice of habitually giving yourself care and compassion, a practice required to be your most radiant and giving self!
Here are a few ideas for practicing regular self-care:
- Prioritize getting enough quality sleep, using expert tips as summarized in a recent New York Times article.
- Eat cleanly. Set up a free health coaching session to help get you started!
- Practice breathing exercises (as discussed by Lindsay in our december blog!) and mindfulness exercises, such as a Self-Compassion Break, to decrease stress and promote wellness.
- Take time to nourish your body daily. Whether that’s through PT, OT, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, massage, Reiki, acupuncture, or personal training — the body loves movement, care, and attention! Call us for a free phone consultation so that we can guide you to the right therapist and help set up an appointment.
So in honor of Valentine’s Day, take time this month to practice acts of care and appreciation for ALL your loved ones — YOURSELF very much included!