I carried my plate to the sink. Kissed my husband. And went to read in the back bedroom while he did the dishes.
But I couldn’t settle. Not right away. I felt like I should be out there helping with the chores, wiping down the counters. I felt like I should be out there finishing up the lunches for the next school day. Folding dish towels. I felt like I should be doing more, better, faster.
I also felt strung out, like I was going to lose all my marbles if I didn’t have 10 minutes to myself to regroup and restore. To relax and take a breath from a day that had involved a work deadlines, carpooling to soccer, helping my daughter with homework, preparing the dinner. There hadn’t been time for a lunch break, or any pause before dinner and I was feeling frantic from the rush of getting it all done.
Still, it was hard for me to take time out, for myself. It felt a little lazy. A little wimpy.
But instead of going off, I acted with a little more kindness. I was plain ol’ nicer to myself. It isn’t a failure to say I need a break and by acting with greater self-compassion, I was better for those around me.
Happier and Healthier
Self-compassionate people tend to be happier, healthier, and more resilient, yet the gentler approach flies in the face of that old critical coach mentality we grew up with – the one that says we’ve got to tough on ourselves if we’re going to amount to anything.
A study in the journal Self and Identity shows that while people generally understand and support the idea of treating themselves more kindly, many believe acting with self-compassion will limit their success.
Somehow acting with gentleness when we’ve failed or a made a mistake will make us too soft, less responsible, and less ambitious.
Yet harsh self-criticism actually hinders our success. Self-criticism can keep us trapped and afraid. We don’t want to try new things, or create, or explore because we might get it wrong – so we color within the lines.
Self-compassion frees you up to gently identify and examine your errors and weaknesses and also reflect on the challenges you are facing, so that you can learn and grow. Self-compassionate people know their weakness are not terrible flaws, but things they can improve upon, change, or accept.
We are human and imperfect and changeable and dynamic and when we get that and start treating ourselves with some kindness and tolerance, we spark our motivation and effort.
Self-compassionate people tend to learn from their mistakes and work hard to avoid repeating the same errors. This effort, practice, and diligence boosts performance and makes it more likely that self-compassionate people will achieve their goals, according to Berkeley researchers Juliana Breines and Serena Chen.
In one of their experiments, participants who failed a test were given a second chance to take it. Those who were kinder to themselves about their initial failure, studied harder the second time around and improved.
Self-compassion allows you to take an honest look at yourself, your efforts and errors, and make adjustments and changes to do better. To feel good. To be present and engaged.
I knew that I needed a timeout to regroup before I snapped and became irritable. I treated myself kindly, instead of lumping more pressure on, I took a break.
And you know what, I don’t think it’s a weakness at all to know what you need and give that to yourself. After 10 minutes I came out, reconnected with my family in a fun and positive way and the night went on with all of us feeling better.
Afterall, there are others who can wash the dishes.