As high achievers, we can be hard on ourselves when we don’t meet our goals or we fall short of completing our to-do list. We feel bad about ourselves and our autopilot steers us into self-critical thinking. I should have done this. Why didn’t I do this? I’m so mad at myself. If only I had just…. We ruminate and in doing so we stay focused on the problem.
This is why compassion for self is a cornerstone for high performance. High achievers think that compassion is like self-pity or self-indulgence but it means that you take responsibility for your life and well-being. Just like a parent doesn’t give their child candy all the time or indulge every impulse, being loving means sometimes saying no and having boundaries.
In the same way, self-compassion involves valuing yourself and making choices that lead to your well-being. If we want to thrive then we need to be honest with ourselves about the ways we self-sabotage but we don’t have to criticize or judge ourselves through the process.
Strategically, the compassionate approach is one of curiosity. Why did this happen and where do I go from here? Now we’re looking at a solution. The self-critical route of shaming and blaming ourselves promotes a stress response. That shuts down our capacity to deal with the situation with intelligence and in that stressed state we are more likely to self-sabotage and stay in avoidance.
Curiosity opens us up and has a different effect on the brain. It fosters a more constructive mental state. This is the inner state we need for change to happen. Try it next time and see how it feels!