Have you ever found yourself trapped in a cycle of regret, resentment, and rumination? I call these the 3 Rs of despair. You're not alone. We all have moments when we look back at our choices and wish we could change them.
“I wish I hadn’t done that.”
“I want a do over.”
We might feel bitter towards ourselves for perceived flaws or failures or envy others' successes. These emotions can lead to rumination, a never-ending cycle of replaying past events and wishing things were different. It's time for a mental reset, just like flipping a breaker on an electric panel.
The Superpower of Self-Compassion
Fortunately, there's a powerful tool at your disposal to break free from the grip of regret and resentment: self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin, has explored the concept of self-compassion, igniting a wave of research on the positive impact of being kinder to ourselves. Self-compassion involves three key components:
1. Mindfulness: Be present in the moment without judgment. It's about having a balanced perspective on both positive and negative experiences.
2. Common Humanity: Recognize that you're not alone in your feelings or experiences. We all share in the human experience of suffering, and having a wider lens can be incredibly liberating.
3 Self-Kindness: Rather than being harsh with yourself, speak to yourself with the same care and love you would offer to a close friend. This element can be especially challenging for perfectionists and those who doubt their own worth.
For many people embracing self-compassion can be as uncomfortable as trying to squeeze into ill-fitting shoes. But it's a practice worth pursuing.
Self-Compassion in Action
Now, it's time for you to put self-compassion into action. You can customize this exercise to make it your own, and it can be completed in less than a minute. Because self-kindness can be challenging, it's a good idea to prepare your phrases in advance. Think of it as a "fake it until you make it" approach. Here's how you can create your personal self-compassion statements
1. Mindfulness Statement: Begin by acknowledging your current emotional state without self-judgment. Say, "This is a moment of [fill in the blank with your emotion]."
2. Common Humanity Statement: Remind yourself that you're not alone in your feelings. For example, "I'm not alone. Others experience this too” “Everyone gets upset sometimes.” “I'm having a survival response.” “This feeling is universal."
3. Self-Kindness Statement: Practice self-kindness by choosing a phrase that resonates with you. For example, "I choose to be [fill in the blank with a positive quality].” “ It's okay not to feel okay. I'm doing the best I can right now. “Be gentle with yourself. (Place your hands on your heart.)" “This moment will pass. Breathe.”
Now, string these three statements together and repeat them several times. Whenever you need a boost, create a self-compassion statement by asking yourself, "What do I need to feel steady in my body? To get grounded? To be a friend to myself?" This exercise can help you break free from the clutches of regret, resentment, and rumination, replacing them with acceptance, understanding and kindness.
Remember, it's a journey, and self-compassion is a skill that you can cultivate. Practice makes progress. Over time, you'll find that this self-compassion reset can be a powerful tool for navigating life's challenges with greater ease and self-love.
Tara Cousineau, PhD, is a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist, coach, and entrepreneur. She is trained in mind-body-energy medicine and is a certified meditation teacher. She is the founder of KindMinds.co, a consultancy that helps high achieving professionals struggling with perfectionism, stress and burnout and to live with more ease and joy. She is author of The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World. For more information visit www.taracousineau.com, Linked In and Instagram.