Why Is Self-Compassion So Hard to Master?

I just read Elizabeth Gilbert’s O article: The Key to a Well Lived Life: Lighten Up in which she muses about the importance of women—notorious in this generation for trying to juggle it all—giving themselves a big old break. Not a break from great aspirations and exertions, mind you—trying, failing and flailing is the good part of life—but a hiatus from the guff we so often give ourselves for not doing enough or doing it all perfectly. It’s been one of those funny weeks where the same advice seems to be cropping up in every conversation.

Just a few days ago my friend Alexandra and I sat in her car, after a yoga class we’d dragged ourselves to despite some serious laziness and PMS, discussing how difficult it is to truly lighten up on oneself. She’d just written a piece on her blog –No More Dirty Looks about self-compassion, particularly in relation to eating. We talked about how hard it is to really monitor the pesky voice in our head that prattles on about how we shouldn’t have eaten that last piece of sea salt chocolate—have you tried this stuff by the way? It’s amaazing. But in her experience, and in mine, the harder we are on ourselves about the chocolate, the more likely we are to eat too much of it. Just as the more grief I give myself about the pages I didn’t write, the more likely I am to waste even more time procrastinating and feeling bad rather than just getting the dang work done. Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that discipline isn’t a part of accomplishment. I guess it comes down to something like: discipline = necessary, self-flagellation = epic waste of time. In fact, research suggests it’s even bad for your health. The could haves and should haves in life are endless; it’s better to do the best you can on a given day, and move on.

And on that note, I’m going to attend to the sopping wet laundry in our building’s broken machine. So much for those three loads I’d planned. Perhaps I’ll do some downward dogs instead, since I watched Knocked Up yesterday afternoon on TV instead of going to yoga. Oopsie. Then again, the apartment could really use a vacuum. See how this starts…

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll post this blog, wring out the laundry, and read a book on the lawn in the extra hour of sun.

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