2 things from Kristen Neff’s self-compassion research that resonates with me today:
1. Performance (contingent) based self esteem. Rather than doing something because we love it and have worked hard at it, we do it for the competition and recognition. This takes the joy from the process of doing and being and often works against us-rendering us incapable of mastery because our performance suffers or we give up all together out of frustration and/or failure. (For me, this was things like playing sports, making art, running, teaching…all these things I once loved became major triggers for my anxiety.)
2. Indiscriminate praise. When we give our students/youth a showering of positivity and praise for everything they do this creates the Generation Me/narcissism we see in western culture. We can give praise, but let it be meaningful and effort based. Rather than talent or results based. We would be better served to create self-compassion movements rather than self-esteem programs. (For me, I have been on the giving and receiving ends of indiscriminate praise…see below for an elaboration.)
How I am learning to love myself at 38. I’ve “earned” all sorts of accolades and awards as a student athlete and academic and high praise as a teacher from colleagues, parents and students. In hindsight, this type of recognition did little for my sense of self. Sure it made me feel a high for a moment, but the grind of performance anxiety to get there and the lull that followed each medal, plaque or newspaper article did nothing for my overall “self-esteem”. My ego wanted more of those highs but mostly left me feeling dull and empty when they weren’t coming. Facebook reactions, shopping, eating a bag of jelly bellies followed by a bag of chips became the highs I could give myself on a steady diet of narcissism. With a body and brain crashing at 38, I realized this existence of emptiness (gosh that sounds melodramatic, but it’s no less true) was not how I wanted to BE. I had to do something else.
Writing became an outlet to explore my interactions with myself and others. It allowed me to write because I really love the process, and yes, at times I get caught up in the recognition and the appreciation, but I quickly (usually) notice this and yank my giant head out of the clouds and promptly ground myself. I write because I love to compose words to honour my feelings and experiences. I write because it helps me train my brain to be more mindful. I write because I love myself and want to honour her with what she has to say. I strive not to write for anyone but myself. And if you are reading this, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate you being here. I sincerely do. But I hope you read this for you, because you feel like you are connected and being honoured in some way and not just reading this out of a sense of duty to me. #doitforyou #selfcompassion
*In the spirit of self-compassion please note this posts title wasn’t about calling myself out as a Narcissist, it was about observing when I have been narcissistic and how that state has helped my introspection. Semantics, I know. But there is a notable difference. 🙂