You set big fitness goals on Monday.
By Friday, you feel great about how healthy you’ve been eating all week.
Then comes Friday night. And someone offers you a large cup of your favorite ice-cream.
You’re about to take it, but then suddenly, you hear two voices whispering…
“No, you need to reach your goals. You can’t give in to the temptation.” says the self-improvement voice.
“Come on! It’s okay to eat it sometimes. After all, fun is also important in life.” says the self-compassion voice.
You keep dabbling between the two voices until you make a choice, only to regret it after.
If you eat the ice-cream, you hate yourself for giving up to the temptation, and not sticking to your plan.
If you don’t eat the ice-cream, you keep having thoughts about it. You feel like you’re missing out on it. And you may even end up eating an ice-cream in the coming days to satisfy your craving.
Can you relate?
Which voice should you listen to?
Let’s find out.
Self-Compassion Or Self-Improvement?
We think of self-compassion as:
- Accepting yourself
- Being kind to yourself
- Not feeling guilty
We think of self-improvement as:
The problem is that we try to find a balance between the two.
Turns out, you don’t need to find the balance when there’s a better solution.
The solution is to stitch them together.
Here’s what I mean…
In this study, researchers asked women to eat a donut and then participate in a candy taste test.
Out of all participants, some women got a self-compassion intervention before the test, where researchers told them:
“Several people have told me that they feel bad about eating donuts in this study, so I hope you won’t be hard on yourself. Everyone eats unhealthily sometimes, and everyone in this study eats this stuff, so I don’t think there’s any reason to feel really bad about it.”
Can you guess which group ate more candies?
The women who got the self-compassion intervention ate FEWER candies than those who got nothing.
We often give ourselves permission to indulge in the name of self-compassion.
But self-compassion isn’t about indulgence.
In fact, self-compassion INCREASES self-improvement.
Don’t believe me?
In this study, researchers did four experiments to conclude that responding to a moral offense, personal weakness, or test failure with self-compassion makes people more motivated to improve themselves and their performance.
Self-compassion doesn’t hinder self-improvement. It supports it.
Together, they are powerful. But if you separate them, they can harm each other.
Own your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and flaws because they make you, YOU.
It’s about going beyond self-acceptance and thinking “So, what am I going to do about it?”
Denying, blaming, or complaining only gives you the illusion of self-love or self-improvement.
Real self-improvement is owning (accepting + improving) yourself.
When you love someone, you do the best for them. You believe in them. You encourage them.
The same holds true for loving yourself.
Truly loving yourself inspires you to be the best version of yourself.
Fake love inspires you to indulge.
We all make mistakes. We all feel guilty. We all do things we regret.
Most people get stuck here.
Some people get past the hurt using self-compassion.
While only a few people take it beyond and USE those feelings for self-improvement. That’s what personal accountability does for you.
Back To The Ice-Cream
The decision to eat or not eat the ice-cream is yours. I’m no one to tell you what the right decision is for you.
But to help you make your own decision, you could apply the dosage principle.
Once you’ve made your decision, you don’t have to choose between the two voices (self-improvement vs self-compassion). Because there is a third voice you can listen to.
The third voice (if you eat the ice-cream):
“I loved the ice-cream. I feel a little guilty (but not ashamed), and I will use it as a motivation to eat even healthier because my body deserves nourishment.”
The third voice (if you don’t eat the ice-cream):
“My goals give me more fulfillment than eating an ice-cream. I’m not “missing out” on anything. I’m proud to stick to my decision.”
“The curious paradox of life is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers
Many people criticize the cult of self-improvement because they think they are complete, there’s nothing wrong with them and they are good enough.
But that’s not what self-improvement is about.
If you improve yourself from the place of love, then self-improvement becomes a form of self-compassion. They both merge.
Yes, you are enough.
But you’re not going to stop there. Are you? 😉