If a friend asked you for advice on whether they should treat themselves to something they wouldn’t normally do, what would you tell them? You’d probably say something like ‘go for it, you deserve it’.
On the other hand, if you were thinking of treating yourself to something you wouldn’t normally do, would you give yourself the same advice? It’s very unlikely. In fact, many of us are more likely to listen to that hypercritical alter ego that’s always telling us we don’t deserve this, that or the other for whatever reason.
Well, next time the negative voice inside your head pipes up, imagine yourself saying the same words, out loud, to another human being. Of course you wouldn’t do that! Speaking to another human being in that way would be unacceptable, even shocking.
So if you believe it’s utterly unacceptable to tell other people these things, why do you allow yourself to accept this kind of toxic criticism from yourself without even challenging it?
There is a new field of psychology called ‘self-compassion’ which is being championed by Kristin Neff, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. The basis of self-compassion is very simple and amounts to treating yourself with the same care and kindness as you treat your friends.
In an interview for the New York Times, Dr Neff explained why she thinks we are so unkind to ourselves: ”I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line.”
The reality is, in fact, the reverse.
A growing number of research studies are finding that the kind of negative criticism we give ourselves is toxic to our mental health. On the other side of the coin, those with self-compassion tend to be happier and more optimistic, with less anxiety or depression.
One study about the effects of self-compassion on dieters found that those who were encouraged to practice self-compassion ended up eating fewer unhealthy treats than those who were encouraged to be self-critical. A different study, this time of older people, found that those who had more self-compassion were much better able to cope with the ageing process.
The science behind self-compassion is simple – to treat yourself in the same way you’d treat your friends. You may not be perfect – spoiler alert: no-one is! – but you’re as deserving of your own kindness and compassion as any of your friends are (just ask them!).
By being kind to yourself, Dr Neff argues, you are both protecting yourself and raising your confidence and feelings of self-worth. These qualities will give you better tools to deal with life and, more importantly, the challenges that life will undoubtedly throw at you.
If you have secretly been wanting to do something purely because it’ll make you feel good, but have allowed that voice inside your head to convince you not to, for whatever reason – you’re not worth it, or you’d have to wait until you lose weight/get a payrise/learn to tapdance/meet the partner of your dreams etc etc – it’s time to tell your inner critic/bully “enough is enough”.
If your best friend was thinking about doing something because it would make them feel good, wouldn’t you encourage them to do it? You’d probably even point out how ridiculous their objections were, or find a reason to do it that they hadn’t thought of, or help them to budget for it, or you might even channel your inner Mrs Doyle and tell them “go on go on go on go on go on” until they get the message. If you treat yourself like you treat your best friend, you could be surprised by the positive changes.
If you want to treat yourself to looking great this Christmas – even better than you already are – there’s still time to start. If you want to treat yourself to glowing skin, getting rid of stubborn pockets of fat, or finally dealing with fine lines or blemishes, contact us for more advice or to make an appointment. Give yourself the treat your best friends know you deserve & check our offers!
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