Tag Archives: find yourself

Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is one of the most important ways to improve our relationship with ourselves.

Society has taught us to be perfect, work harder, achieve more,  and be the best at everything we do.  While it is great to have goals in life to help us grow and develop, unfortunately, many people struggle with not knowing when to stop and are constantly self-critical.  When our self worth depends on being “better” than others, we become anxious, insecure, and self critical.  This competition and frequent self judgement, can lead to social isolation.  This self-criticism gets in the way of our brain’s social wiring goals – which is to belong and be loved.

Self-compassion is not artificially boosting ourselves up, being too easy on ourselves, or giving up.  It is the actually the opposite – the source of learning, empowerment and inner strength.  Our performance after failure can also be improved through self-compassion, and it helps us maintain peace of mind throughout the day.  

Kristen Neff, one of the leading researchers and practitioners in the field of Self-Compassion says, “Self-compassion soothes the mind like a loving friend who’s willing to listen to our difficulties without giving advice, until we can sort out our problems for ourselves.” 

Self-compassion involves facing mistakes, failure or insecurity in a different way.  Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same support, kindness, and concern you would show to a child, loved one or close friend.  When facing with struggles in life (which we all experience), self-compassion involves responding with kindness rather than harshness and judgement.  For example, “Mallory, that sucks you are struggling with feeling left out of the group.  That feeling is normal and many people feel the same way.”  I like to use my name my self-compassion statements (see my tips on positive self talk).  If you would like to learn more about self-compassion, here is a Ted Talk by Kristen Neff I strongly recommend seeing.

Kristin Neff also has some free guided Loving Kindness Meditations as well – that are a great way to learn how to speak to ourselves differently, especially if you have no idea where to start.

And finally, here is a Self Compassion Exercise that I use with clients and myself, to practise self compassion.  It often does not come naturally, so we need to have a script to repeat to ourselves – until it becomes automatic.  If self-compassion is something you want to work on in your life, I often suggest practising either a meditation, repeating your own personalized self-compassion scripts (set an alarm), and use the worksheet – and then personalize the worksheet to situations in your life that you are currently facing (feel free to get some ideas from family and friends too).

Week 7: Improving Our Relationship With Ourself

A critical part to the Healthier You program, and something I work with almost ALL OF MY CLIENTS on, is improving our relationship with ourself – starting with changing the way we evaluate our worth.  There are many factors that influence how we evaluate our worth including:

  • Societal values
  • Family values
  • Our experience growing up
  • Pressures such as perfectionism, capitalism and the focus on beauty
  • Need for approval
  • Need for control

One thing we know in psychology, is that people tend to be happier, have less psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, and have a steadier positive experience throughout life when they use INTRINSIC VALUES to evaluate themselves, vs EXTRINSIC VALUES.

EXTRINSIC VALUES (the ones we want to be weary of using) includes factors such as achievements, compliments, approval, and social media responses.  There is a big difference of using EXTRINSIC VALUES as a motivator or goal versus using them to evaluate one’s worth.  A common problem people experience when using extrinsic values to evaluate themselves, is they can be doing everything well, and not be getting the feedback they need.  Extrinsic values are often out of our control and we don’t get accurate feedback because we rely on others – such as a boss (who may not be good at giving positive feedback), society (that often has ulterior motives such as to sell us something), or an arbitrary assessment (such as a test that focuses on a small proportion of your knowledge).  The key message is:

WE ARE MORE THAN OUR ACHIEVEMENTS, JOB, MONEY, ATTRACTIVENESS TO OTHERS, POPULARITY, and STATUS.

 

So………what are INTRINSIC VALUES and how do we incorporate them in our lives?

INTRINSIC VALUES are values that tell us about who we are.  These values are typically consistent throughout our adult lives (and often developing in childhood and adolescence).  There is no intrinsic value that is better than the other.  Here is a Intrinsic Values worksheet that I give out to help prompt thinking.  There are many more values a person can use – but Intrinsic Values list will help you get started.

 

Activity

From the list, choose 5-10 values that are true to you.  This may take a few read overs to go from a larger list to a smaller list.  

A way to tell a true value vs. “nice to have traits” is that if you were to get $500 000 to no longer have that value, would you take the money?  For example, I like being tidy and I know society values it (and those around me), but I would take the money to no longer be tidy.  However, I would not take the money to no longer be kind, helpful or hardworking.  So these are my true values.  Also be aware of the pull towards values that society values – that may not be as true to you.  

Societal values are constantly changing – and remember, this is about finding your own PERSONALIZED values, that tell us about what influences your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  

Questions to Ponder

  • After looking at the list, is this someone you would want to be friends with?
  • Does this give you any new perspective about why you enjoy certain people, and why others seem not to be a good fit in your life?
  • Do your values give you any new deeper insight about a value conflict when you have been upset or hurt?

Incorporating INTRINSIC VALUES Into Your Life

  • Each week or two (set an alarm), rate yourself from a scale of 1-10 of how much you incorporated these values into your life.  A lower score does not indicate poor performance, it means that may be a value that may need expressing or nurturing in the next coming weeks.  Likewise a 10 does not mean perfection, it means you utilized that trait highly during that time period.
  • The above activity is also good to do when you are feeling down or upset.  If you are upset with another person, focus on yourself, and notice what the situation says about you, rather than being judgemental of someone else.  
  • When working on a new goal, such as a healthier lifestyle, studying for a new career, or trying something new, be extra purposeful of using these INTRINSIC VALUES along side when evaluating progress.  For example, put a sticky note with your values on the scale to prompt you.

Why don’t you like me: When approval seeking becomes a problem

 

Are you a people-pleaser?

We all want approval.  We want our partners to think we’re attractive and funny, we want our bosses to think we’re intelligent and hard-working, we want our friends to think we’re fun and dependable, we want our children to think we’re cool parents…and the list goes on.  It’s perfectly normal to want to be seen in a positive light, but for some people, approval-seeking can become an automatic and unaviodable behaviour that severely impairs one’s functioning and well-being.  This might sound familiar to you because it’s something that you’re currently struggling with, or it might be a problem that you’ve noticed in others.  Either way, it’s important to recognize when approval-seeking has become an oft-used crutch, and to take steps to reduce this maladaptive behaviour.  As Bob Marley said, “you can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool everybody all the time”.  The same goes for pleasing people – sooner or later, one of your approval-seeking attempts will inevitably fail, and you won’t feel very good about yourself.

At this point, you may be wondering, how can you tell whether approval-seeking is a problem in your own life?  Some potential clues to watch out for include extreme anxiety at the thought of any potential conflict or disapproval from others, altering your own opinions or behaviour because you perceive that someone disapproves, acting contrary to your values and beliefs in order to please others, apologizing excessively, and finding yourself afraid to say ‘no’ to any request made of you.

On a clinical level, approval-seeking can sometimes be indicative of an underlying diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, but more commonly, the behaviour can stem from many different roots such as childhood bullying or insecure attachment.  Approval-seeking behaviour, many argue, is learned rather than inherent; therefore, it can also be ‘un-learned’. If you feel that this behaviour may be a problem in your own life, there are a few strategies that you can employ to try to reduce it:

Start by identifying: Are you aware of when you’re engaging in approval-seeking behaviour?  Sometimes, this behaviour can manifest in rather obvious ways (for example, doing things that you don’t want to do in order to gain approval), while other times, it may appear more subtly (for example, you might find yourself paying someone an insincere compliment).  Dedicate a few days to paying close attention to your own behaviour – don’t judge or criticize yourself, simply notice the patterns that emerge.  Pay attention to your own thought processes, and try to identify the areas of life (or the specific social situations) in which you tend to seek approval.

Move on to questioning: Now that you’ve identified where your approval-seeking manifests, you can move on to the harder work: questioning why you’ve been engaging in these behaviours.  The reasons may not always be clear – as mentioned earlier, approval-seeking often originates as a result of childhood experiences that you may not recall completely – but just do your best.  For example, if you find yourself spending your Friday night at a club with your friends even though you’re exhausted and were dying to spend the evening curled up on the couch with popcorn and a movie, ask yourself why you went out.  Were you scared that your friends would be disappointed in you if you bailed? And if they were disappointed in you, what would happen then?  Take the time to really interrogate your own beliefs and motivations – you might gain a lot of insight.

Tell everyone: If you feel comfortable, try explaining your quest to decrease approval-seeking to your friends and family.  Saying something like “I’ve noticed that people-pleasing behaviour has become a problem for me, and I’ve decided to work on it – so you might notice me saying no to things more than usual” can go a long way in setting the social stage for your behaviour change.  If your friends have been forewarned that you might say no to their requests sometimes, you might just feel more comfortable doing so.  If they truly care about you, they’ll almost certainly understand.  If you want to take it a (brave) step further, you can even try asking your loved ones to point out to you when they notice you seeking approval.  This last tactic runs the risk of hurting your feelings, however, so make sure to be cognizant of that.

Engage in self-care: You’ve been worrying yourself sick about pleasing other people, so it’s likely that you haven’t given much thought to taking good care of yourself.  Try using the time you gain back as a result of decreasing your approval-seeking to engage in some good old-fashioned self care.  Queue up your favourite Netflix show, sink into a hot bath, catch up with your significant other, read a book, plan a trip, or do all of the above – just make sure to take time for yourself to fully relax, and turn off your phone while you do so!

As always, it’s important to consider the valuable and often-neglected option of sourcing the help of a Psychologist to help you examine the reasons behind your approval-seeking behaviour and help you work to reduce said behaviour.  Above all, remember to be kind and patient with yourself when you’re trying to reduce approval-seeking behaviour.  This kind of big behavioural change definitely doesn’t occur overnight, and for many of us, this behaviour has been with us since childhood, so treat yourself with kindness and appreciate the small victories.  You’re doing something good for yourself just by reading this article – and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a new sense of control over your life and toasting to your people-pleasing past.