Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why be kind to yourself?

This post is coming a few hours late. Yesterday I was away all day in Bhubaneswar to visit relatives. After returning home at night when I turned on my laptop to publish this weekend's post, a heavy thunderstorm started that disrupted the supply of electricity and internet for a few hours. There was no point agonizing over the disruption or blaming myself for not having got my post ready earlier. So I simply went to bed, and am posting this article after waking up in the morning.

A non-critical approach to my failure in publishing the blog post may seem like a contradiction to what I had emphasized last week, i.e., the discipline of 100% commitment, but it isn't. People associate the discipline of 100% commitment to being hard on oneself, but in reality, if you are hard on yourself, you will be less likely to stay 100% committed to a habit. In fact, one of the major reasons people fail to maintain a 100% commitment to an activity is that they are too hard on themselves, or to state it in technical terms, the lack of self-compassion.

Self-compassion is taking an approach of understanding, care, kindness and non-judgmental attitude toward one's own inadequacies and failures. Although self-compassion is a complex concept, its central idea is to treat oneself kindly (and not with criticism and anger) when things go wrong. Challenges and failures are inevitable on the path of developing a new habit, and research shows that people who are high in self-compassion are better at dealing with these struggles and setbacks than those who are low in self-compassion. For example, Claire Adams (from Louisiana State University) and Mark Leary (from Duke University) in a paper that they published in 2007 demonstrated that female college students who were induced into feeling self-compassion (or less guilty) following eating of a large doughnut engaged in much less "emotional" eating and over-eating of candies later in the experiment than those who hadn't been induced to feel self-compassion.

In summary, the point that I would like to emphasize in today's post is to be kind to yourself if you want to be able to succeed in the seemingly difficult discipline of being 100% committed to your goals and pursuits. People worry that they will become too lax and mediocre if they are not critical and punitive towards themselves when they falter on their path of 100% commitment. However, the exact opposite is true. When you are self-compassionate, you will tend to see your failures as learning and developmental opportunities, which will help you in the path of developing the discipline of 100% commitment. Self-compassion is not a hindrance but an excellent aid to staying motivated and committed in the long term.

To be continued...
(In my next post, I will continue my discussion on the steps that one can take to be successful in the discipline of 100% commitment.)


  1. Thanks for the post, Kuna bhaina. Had been waiting for your post this weekend.
    If you be kind to yourself in your commitment and be leverage, how can you achieve/maintain 100% commitment then?

    1. That's an excellent question, Tinu. Imagine you are trying to teach some good behavior or skill in your daughter. She tries it for sometime, but then fails. What would you do? Would you ridicule and beat her for her failure, or will you be kind and encouraging giving her the assurance that she can succeed if she continues to try? Obviously you will prefer the latter, because you know very well that the first option will cause more harm than good, that it will lead to she giving up trying. In other words, you know that you will be more likely to succeed if you are compassionate toward her. Same thing applies to ourselves as well. Research shows that people who are very critical of themselves tend to give up easily; they don't persist. The point to remember is that self-compassion does not mean that you are not allowed to set high standards for yourself. Instead it is the awareness that high standards are not achieved easily and failures are bound to happen on the path to realizing those high standards that you set for yourself. So if despite your determination, you faltered on the habit that you undertaken to inculcate, you will be better off to NON-JUDGMENTALLY acknowledge your failure, learn whatever you did from the experience, and again move forward with renewed commitment. The alternative of not being self-compassionate will just lead to you giving up entirely. Hope this helps. Best wishes.