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Self-compassion: Guidepost #2

This is the 2nd entry in a series based on Brené Brown’s 10 Guideposts For Wholehearted Living. To learn more about Wholehearted Living and my workshop offerings, Link HERE!

Come sit, we need to talk. If you were with me on my porch this afternoon, I’d offer you an iced tea, and then I’d share some important lessons. It’s especially significant in lieu of that “stuck” feeling you’ve been having.

Remember that great business idea we talked about? The 5K you’ve been training-for, and the blog you’ve been planning to start? Let me guess –  your idea isn’t fully fleshed-out, you’re insecure about your writing, and you may need to walk for part of the race. Sound familiar?

Meet Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

Perfectionism can, but doesn’t always look like a tidy house or flawless penmanship. It sometimes shows-up as procrastination or self-sabotage. Perfectionism is BIG, and if you know it personally, you know how powerful it is. It can be paralyzing or keep you flying just under the radar. Perfectionism is fear of shame, ridicule and ultimately, disconnection – a bit of a conundrum when (as Brené Brown says) “Humans are hard-wired for connection”.

The scary thing about putting ourselves out there creatively, intellectually or in relationship is that we risk being seen, really seen – with our foibles, flaws and naiveté. When we stay safe and comfortable we avoid the pain or possibility of criticism, judgment or rejection. We stay safe and we stay stuck.

Since our culture prides itself on a workhorse ethic with little value placed on rest and play, phrases like “never let ‘em see you sweat” are common household mantras. I interpret that phrase to also mean: Never let ‘em see you cry, struggle or make a mistake. That’s a tough row to hoe since we operate from both our brains and our emotions. No wonder you have so much fear around stepping outside the box.

How DO you develop the courage to show up with new ideas or make changes in the face of such harsh criticism? Researcher Brené Brown, Ph.D. and self-compassion expert Kristin Neff, Ph.D. would say… For God’s sake, give yourself a break (perhaps they’d say it a bit more gently)! Instead of speaking in judgment of yourself, “If I mess-up, I’ll never live it down”, try substituting with “This may suck, but I’ll get through it”. When you practice a little self-compassion, you ease up on the self-criticism. When you love yourself enough to go for it, the opinions of others begin to loose their power.

Easier said than done, right? Here’s the good news – Wholehearted Living is not a static fix or a cure. It’s a way of life that requires tending-to, and it’s made up of practices. Self- Compassion is one of those practices. There are tons of resources on the net, books and Ted Talks on the subject of self-compassion. If you are new to the concept, try a couple of the following suggestions.

5 Steps For Cultivating Self-Compassion:

  1. Spend time with those who genuinely celebrate your successes and your failures: You know who “your people” are! They’re the friends and loved-ones you call when you feel like crap. They have your back, and there’s no judgment or shame. They know just what makes you tick.
  2. Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation: Dr. Kristin Neff has a wonderful website with resources and guided meditation recordings. Explore this lovely site: http://www.self-compassion.org
  3. Make self-care a priority: Whatever makes you feel good, do it more often. Cook a delicious meal and savor every bite, take a bath, get a massage. Take a break from care taking and re-connect with what feels good to you!
  4. Move your body: Our bodies hold so much tension, and what’s more loving than giving yourself the gift of relaxation? Going for a run or taking a class is a release for some, but we get tremendous benefit from simple, non-structured movement as well. Take a walk in nature or around your neighborhood. Spend time grooming, walking or playing with your pets. Stretch or do yoga. Dance in your kitchen!
  5. Be in-service to your community. Sometimes the best gift to you can be helping others. Volunteer at a food pantry, school, CSA or animal shelter. Plan your next vacation to combine service and travel/sightseeing.

If you’re in the Boston area, practice the ultimate act of self-compassion – Sign up for my 8-Week workshop: Wholehearted Living – The Daring Way™. Link HERE for more information.

PLEASE, leave a comment! I’d love to know your thoughts, struggles and successes with perfectionism.

With Loving Kindness,


photo credit: © Nina Weinberg Doran


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