How Self-Compassion Can Help You Finish 2020 Strong

Did you achieve all of the 2020 goals that you set pre-pandemic? If so, you’re either a soothsayer or a superhuman, and I’d like to have you guest-post for this blog.

For the rest of us, the end of 2020 likely looks different than we imagined it would back in December 2019; life, relationships, work—all of it—has changed. It’s still important, however, to end this year strong and to do what we can to propel us into a productive and fulfilling 2021. (That said, when 2020 turns 21 it can legally drink, so we might be in for an even crazier 2021.)

Looking back on my year, I’m reaffirming that radical relationships are everything when it comes to your and others’ successes. Today, I want to focus on one particularly impactful relationship: 

The one with yourself. 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

This oft-shared notion is spot on. We don’t know the effort it takes another person to accomplish even a small goal like getting dressed every day when they’ve just lost a parent. We can’t imagine the obstacles a stranger overcame to make it to this grocery checkout line where we’re getting super frustrated that they’re writing a check. In 2020.

However, we do know our own struggles. Why, then, aren’t we more forgiving of ourselves? Why aren’t we kind to the person whose battles we know all about?

Marriage and family therapist Kim Frederickson is an expert on self-compassion. In her book Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend, she asks a key question: If we’re taught to treat others how we want to be treated, why don’t we also treat ourselves the same way?

Give Yourself the Best Holiday Gift: A Break

That’s why I’m calling on you to give yourself the gift of grace this year—and to extend it into 2021. Stop obsessing over your failures and start reminding yourself of your accomplishments. This isn’t for vanity; it’s for sanity. 

self-compassion

BuzzFeed and your Instagram feed are telling you what you need for self-care: Theragun massagers, body and/or beard oil, a comfy new pillow, a journal, Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year bourbon. Those gifts are great (especially the Pappy), but they don’t address our deeper need for self-compassion. And that’s where true self-care begins.

Why Self-Compassion is Important

In times of stress and uncertainty, such as community lockdowns, job layoffs, and looming economic recession, thoughts are public enemy number one. Psychologists note that during times like these our thoughts can easily get distorted. Because of the general uncertainty and the lack of workable information on the novel coronavirus, many of us have become vulnerable to irrational thinking that influences how we feel about certain situations.

One common type of negative thinking during this pandemic is catastrophizing, or irrationally assuming that the worst possible outcome is likely. Common behaviors caused by catastrophizing include compulsive googling of medical symptoms for fear of contracting COVID, stockpiling supplies, money, and food in anticipation of society’s collapse, and doomscrolling COVID news headlines.

Possibly the most dangerous form of negative self-talk for disruptors is a fallback to black-and-white thinking. The beauty of disruption is the ability to see the grays of what is possible, to open up a crack and find a new answer. 

But even if your catastrophizing has been more along the lines of “We won’t finish this product launch with my team remote,” “They’ll slash R&D budgets first,” or “I can’t possibly keep working and teaching my kids” and your black-and-white thinking has consisted of “There is and always has been only one actor who can play Fresh Prince’s mom,” you must name your negative thoughts and reframe them before they spiral out of control. 

negative to positive thoughts

Then you must replace them. Negative self-talk can increase cognitive anxiety, but positive self-talk can boost confidence and calm fears. And while more research is needed to fully understand the correlation between self-talk and performance, we do understand that negative self-talk increases anxiety and that anxiety wrecks our wellbeing. It’s clear we need to give ourselves grace for our emotional, physical, and spiritual health now and in the new year.

When you can focus on the best in yourself, your potential strength can come out and you can better cope and find solutions to life’s problems in a healthy manner,” says R. Murali Krishna, M.D., host of The Art of Happy Living™ podcast. “That’s a skill and a power we’re born with—we just have to believe what science is telling us. To make our lives happier, to better connect with loved ones, to have a stronger sense of gratitude and fulfillment, it all begins with the positive words we say to ourselves.”

Self-compassion and positive self-talk can help you:

  1. Reframe how you view stressful situations, shifting from a “This is too hard” mindset to an “I can do this” mindset. Even if you fail, you’ll know that your attitude wasn’t to blame. Who would want to fail because of something that they could easily fix themselves?
  2. Instill confidence and fuel your thinking around workarounds to obstacles you encounter, which can lead to new solutions. In other words, when you see the task as achievable, you’ll put more effort into finding a way to complete it.
  3. Reframe situations to focus on the present moment, placing more value on the situation you’re facing now instead of rehashing past failures or anticipating future worries.
  4. Focus on the possible. If you believe your ideas and skills lack value, how can you envision a better future or ideate a new solution?

stuart smalley

You can start today. Here’s how:

  1. Conduct an honest self-assessment. Be your own counselor and talk yourself through what you’re experiencing. By analyzing your locus of control, you can disengage and have a better look at the situation and move toward concrete actions.
  2. Practice gratitude—and include yourself in the recipient list. Making a conscious effort to thank yourself for small successes can lead to a deeper trust and a more profound appreciation of yourself.
  3. Outline your intentions for the remaining days of 2020, not shying away from calling out failures while also calling out triumphs without timidity. The year is about to end, but it’s not over yet. There’s still room to put some of your plans into motion and get a head start on 2021. Putting your goals on paper makes them feel more tangible.
  4. Forgive yourself, starting with an apology letter. Everyone makes mistakes. What is important is to learn from these errors, let go of feelings of anger and resentment towards yourself, and move on. Accept responsibility while focusing on restoration and renewal. Write about why you feel guilty, but don’t forget about the steps you’ve taken to rectify the situation and the lessons you’ve learned from this experience.

Offering compassion to yourself is quite similar to offering compassion to others. Instead of criticizing yourself mercilessly for your own shortcomings, give yourself the kindness and understanding you would give someone who has encountered losses and committed mistakes. As the year comes to a close, allow yourself to accept falling short of your own goals and bumping up against certain limitations. 

Like with anything disruptive, failure is part of the learning process. Give yourself grace, have gratitude for the wins and use the rest to grow.

Shawn Nason

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