Most of us aren’t giving ourselves the same love and compassion as we give others; we need to start flipping the usual “love thy neighbour” expression. We are our own toughest critic and this may be leading us to depression. Recent research from Sydney-based researchers have found that excessive perfectionism is linked to depression, and self-compassion may be the answer.
Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and allowing yourself the same forgiveness you give others for your mistakes. There are little mistakes we make throughout the day, something like forgetting to buy milk – an uncompassionate thought would be “oh you idiot, how could you forget that?” Try swapping this thought for “easily done, you can grab it tomorrow morning”, and there you have self-compassion. There are also more subtle forms linked with perfectionism, people get lost in the fact that they could always do better and are critical of themselves when they cannot achieve this unattainable goal. If you catch yourself after a long work day feeling like you could have done better/worked harder/answered that extra email, then stop and tell yourself “you did well today, keep up the good work!” It not only may help prevent depression, but it has been linked to improved life satisfaction and compassion for others, leading to more meaningful relationships.
The self-compassion practice may seem a bit awkward and contrived at first, you may not fully believe the positive words that you are telling yourself as you’ve been conditioned to the negative. Just continuing to practice it, it will feel more sincere and you may gradually find your subconscious changing its tone.
If you think you may have a problem with perfectionism or self-criticism, have a try of the exercises from the following link (I’ve been doing daily mindfulness meditations and try to incorporate a compassion-based meditation once per week).
Written by Steph Folley
M. Ferrari et al. Self-compassion moderates the perfectionism and depression link in both adolescence and adulthood. PLOS ONE. Published February 21, 2018. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192022.