Many people lack self-compassion, but it’s especially crucial for people who’ve come to hate their food failures and bodies. Make no mistake, lacking self-compassion puts you on the fast track to self-hate, so it’s a quality that none of us can afford to be without.
First off, self-compassion is not: accepting unhealthy habits, giving up improvement, thinking that you’re perfect, or lacking accountability. If criticism is a harsh task-master, self-compassion is a soft one, encouraging you to be the best person you can be. It is: being kind to yourself when you’re hurting or suffering, understanding that you’re human and have frailties and limits, loving yourself in spite of your faults when you err or fail, and the way we connect to other flawed human beings as we all strive to do better
If your parents weren’t self-compassionate, you never may have learned to be so. No problem: you’ll learn how in adulthood. If you’re compassionate to others, but not to yourself, excellent, you have a good notion of what the term means: having your heart reach out with kindness to someone who is suffering. Really, is that so difficult to think about doing for yourself? A Buddhist way of describing compassion is “where love meets suffering and stays loving.” It is being moved by your own large and small sufferings and wanting to love yourself anyway.
Self-compassion is a superb antidote for perfectionism (in eating or anything). The reason you try to be perfect is that you make yourself feel so doggone miserable when you’re not. What a slave-driver perfection is. Think how wonderful it will feel to make mistakes, recognize the fact, treat yourself kindly, strategize about how to improve, and move on. Being kind to yourself when you’re not perfect overrides the need for perfection. “I failed,” you can think, “Oh, well, better luck next time, Self.”
Your inner critic is your way of attempting to make yourself a better person. Understand that it has a noble goal, but is going about the process exactly the wrong way. It’s admirable that you wish to be a better person and, if that’s your objective, then use the most effective skill for the job. That would be self-compassion which acknowledges that you let yourself or someone else down, seeks understanding for why that happened, and helps you consider ways to not repeat the mistake.
It’s the flashlight that shines on all your dark corners and finds stuff that you may not want to look at. It then uses its beam to infuse that “stuff” with warm understanding and loving light so that you can look unabashedly at it and not feel badly about yourself. Self-compassion is the gift that keeps on giving, a must have this new year and after.