Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits, recently wrote a comprehensive blog post on the importance of self-kindness to achieve your potential. In his post, How to Be Kind to Yourself & Still Get Stuff Done, emphasised the disabling effects of negative self-talk, the potentiality in releasing yourself from a focus on your deficiencies, defects and mistakes and the power of self-kindness to achieve this release. Leo is a leading expert on the formation and maintenance of healthy and productive habits, the author of Zen Habits: Handbook for Life and the developer of the Fearless Training Program.
How negative self-talk disables you
Your brain has an inherent negative bias, so it is so easy
to constantly focus on what you have not done well, your defects and
deficiencies and your mistakes. This
negative self-talk can lead to depression (regret over the past) and anxiety
(about possible future mistakes). It
also engenders fear of failure and prevents you from achieving what you can
achieve. It serves as an anchor holding
you in place and preventing you from moving forward. Negative
self-stories, if entertained, can lead to a disabling spiral.
You might find yourself saying things like:
- Why did I do that?
- What a stupid thing to do!
- When will I ever learn?
- Why can’t I be like other people, efficient and
- If only I could think before I leap!
- Why do I make so many mistakes? – no one else
- If only I was more careful, more useful, more
thoughtful or more attentive!
…and so, your self-talk can go on and on, disabling yourself
in the process.
Overcoming negative self-talk through self-kindness
Leo suggests that being kind to yourself is a way to negate
the disabling effects of negative self-talk that focuses on your blemishes,
mistakes or incompetence. He proposes
several ways to practise self-kindness:
- Give yourself compassion – instead of beating up on yourself when you get things wrong, have some compassion, positive feelings toward yourself whereby you wish yourself success, peace and contentment.
- Focus on your good intentions – you may have stuffed up by being impatient in the moment, by a rash or harmful statement or by making a poor decision, but you can still recognise in yourself your good intentions, the effort you put in and the learning that resulted.
- Be grateful for what you have – rather than focus on your defects or deficiencies. Gratitude is the door to equanimity and peace. You can focus on the very things you take for granted – being able to walk or run, gather information and make decisions, listen and understand, breathe and experience the world through your senses, be alive and capable, form friendships and positive relationships. You can heighten your experience of the world by paying attention to each of your senses such as smelling the flowers, noticing the birds, hearing sounds, touching the texture of leaves, tasting something pleasant in a mindful way.
I found that when I was playing competitive tennis, that what worked for me was to ignore my mistakes and visually capture shots that I played particularly well – ones that achieved what I set out to achieve. I now have a videotape stored in my mind that I can play back to myself highlighting my best forehands, backhands, smashes and volleys. You can do this for any small achievement or accomplishment. The secret here is that this self-affirmation builds self-efficacy – your belief in your capacity to do a specific task to a high level.
These strategies and ways to be kind to yourself are enabling,
rather than disabling. They provide you
with the confidence to move forward and realise your potential. They stop you from holding yourself back and procrastinating
out of fear that you will make a mistake, make a mess of things or stuff up
Ways to achieve what you set out to accomplish
Leo maintains that being kind to yourself enables you to achieve
creative things for yourself and the good of others. He proposes several ways to build on the
potentiality of kindness to yourself:
- Do positive things: these are what is good for yourself and
enable you to be good towards others.
They can include things like yoga, meditation, mindful walking, taking
time to reflect, Tai Chi, spending time in nature,
savouring the development of your children, eating well and mindfully.
- Avoid negative things – stop doing things
that harm yourself or others. Acknowledge
the things that you do that are harming yourself or others. Recognise the negative
effects of these harmful words and actions – be conscious of their effects on your
body, your mind, your relationships and your contentment. Resolve to avoid these words and actions out
of self-love and love for others.
- Go beyond yourself – extend your loving
kindness to others through meditation and compassionate action designed to address
their needs whether that is a need for support, comfort or to redress a wrong
they have suffered. Here Leo asks the penetrating
question, “Can you see their concerns, feel their pain and struggle, and
become bigger than your self-concern and serve them as well?” He argues that going beyond yourself is
incredibly powerful because it creates meaning for yourself, stimulates your
drive to turn intention into action and brings its own rewards in the form of happiness
and contentment – extending kindness to others is being kind to yourself.
There are so many ways that we can be kind to our self and build
our capacity and confidence to do things for our self as well as others. As we grow in mindfulness, we can become more
aware of the negative self-stories that hold us back, be more open and able to
be kind to our self, be grateful for all that we have and find creative ways to
help others in need. We can overcome fear
and procrastination by actively building on the potential of self-kindness. As Leo suggests, self-kindness enables us to
get stuff done that we ought to do for our self and others.
Image by rawpixel from Pixabay
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)
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