Overweight clients often disclose that improved self-esteem is a desired end result of weight loss.
The truth is that if you have low self-esteem weight loss will not improve it for any length of time. It’s likely that another perceived flaw or deficit will emerge once the novelty of weight loss wears off.
Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology in Austin, is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion. She makes important distinctions between self-esteem and self-compassion.
Self-esteem is an evaluation of our self-worth. The biggest problem with self-esteem is how we get it. We need to be good at something. We compare our self to others. Am I as good or best? Obviously we can’t all be great at everything. Yet many of us continue to seek validation and never quite feel worthy. We’re never good enough. Attractive enough. Smart enough. Rich enough. Lovable enough. Athletic enough . . .
Self-esteem is fleeting and fickle. One minute we’re up and the next we’re down because how we get esteem is usually from outside of us.
What if you loved yourself with all your imperfections – or loved yourself at any size? I’m not talking about denying what hurts. I’m talking about true love for yourself, just as others love you – no matter what.
Self-compassion is simply treating yourself with the same kindness you would treat a close friend. It’s a way of loving ourselves with our imperfections. We can feel and give compassion to others. Why are we so stingy towards ourselves?
As Dr. Neff describes, self-compassion is the perfect alternative to self-esteem because it doesn’t require us to be special or to be better than others.
Dr. Neff’s three components to practicing self-compassion
1. Bring mindful awareness that suffering is present. Acknowledge your struggle. “I’m really hurting right now. This is hard.”
2. Remind yourself of our shared humanity. “Suffering is a part of life. Everyone goes through hard times like this.”
3. Comfort yourself with kindness. Use kind words and touch. Let feelings of care stream through your fingers. “May I be kind to myself in this moment.” Use language you would use with a good friend to yourself. “I’m here for you, sweetheart. You’re going to get through this.”
If this sounds like you, congratulations! If you’re more inclined to beat yourself up and use negative self-talk it’s an indication that a self-compassion break might be in order. When we practice these steps any guilt, shame or feelings of inadequacy are replaced with understanding and perspective – and self-compassion.
Forget about your self-esteem. It will elevate with improved self-compassion.
For more info and resources visit Dr. Neff here.