Summer 2021 has already offered us so many gifts: the opportunity to reunite with loved ones, the chance to travel, the option to attend concerts and ball games and neighborhood barbecues. Combine that with some sunshine and warm weather, and there are so many things to be grateful for!
But if you’re like many, this post-COVID season also holds new challenges. For instance, are you feeling the need to make up for lost time and over-committing? Are you still feeling lingering fear from the pandemic, yet also feeling pressure to get back to “normal”? With the ever-evolving statistics and protocols surrounding COVID, it seems as if there’s a new pressure to do life right. In short, there’s a new pressure to be perfect.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brene Brown suggests ten “guideposts for wholehearted living.” The second guidepost addresses the issue of perfectionism. Instead of striving to be perfect, Dr. Brown suggests we should instead cultivate self-compassion.
What is self-compassion? According to leading self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion involves paying attention to the difficulties you encounter and finding ways to care for yourself in them. We instinctively do this with others — if a child or a friend is hurting, we seek to show them kindness and support. Self-compassion is simply offering that same kindness to ourselves, rather than choosing self-criticism and self-judgment. You can read more on Dr. Neff’s definition and work here.
What are some practical ways we can cultivate self-compassion? First, you can ask the question, “How would I treat a friend if she was experiencing what I’m going through”? Then, seek to offer yourself the same treatment. You can also grow in paying attention to your experience through journaling at the end of the day or expressing your wants/needs through art. Dr. Neff has several other suggestions here.
As we continue to learn what life looks like after an unprecedented pandemic, consider foregoing perfectionism for self-compassion. We are all navigating this together, and none of us will get it right 100% of the time. And as we grow in showing kindness to ourselves, we’ll have even greater capacity to show care toward those around us.
Article by Kirstyn Besch, Counseling Admin