If you read last week's blog post Love Yourself Anyway, you may have thought, “Easy for you to say. She doesn't have the same negative traits that I have.” Or you may have thought something like, “I don't deserve to forgive myself and love myself anyway.” Or perhaps you come from the school that says the best way to motivate is with the stick, “I'd just become lazy and complacent if I do that. I have to push myself to be better.”
If your reasons are described above or are other ones, know that you are not alone. Many people struggle with the idea of self-compassion. The approach that they learned in their family of origin worked to get them here after all. Why should they do it differently?
The latest research in neuroscience sheds some light on this. When we motivate ourselves through self-recrimination, blame, guilt, or 'shoulding' on ourselves, we unwittingly push our brains into a survive state. Even if we're just in the beginnings of the survive state, our brains start releasing stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. These chemicals are designed to provide our limbs with the ability to run and our arms with the ability to strike and fight. They put us into a hyper-aware state in which we see, hear, and even smell differently. And to top it off, the neo-cortex, which is the seat of creative thinking and innovative problem solving, takes a break as it is not needed when the amygdala is in charge.
All the above adds up to the grim fact that when we push ourselves in a mean way, we are setting ourselves up to do our worst, not our best.
Conversely, if we support our brains to go into a thrive state by using self-compassion and tenderness towards ourselves, all kinds of good hormones are released. Oxytocin, the feel good hormone, sweetens our mood while at the same time helps with the suppression of cortisol. Endorphins are released that elevate our mood and seem like they increase our stamina. Dopamine, the reward hormone, comes into play if we add some acknowledgement of what we have accomplished through self-compassion. And serotonin helps us relax, chill, and feel good about moving forward using the carrot, rather than the stick.
With all these positive hormones permeating our body and our brain, our neo-cortex takes its rightful place as the director of innovating, deciding, planning, and executing. By bringing in some self-compassion, we are inviting in the best of ourselves. We are setting ourselves up for success. And by the way, the experience of feeling joy, the pride of accomplishment, and the sweetness of success.
Really, doesn't it seem that it is worth working hard to learn the skills to help yourself shift from self-blame to self-compassion when you know what you're doing in your brain?
Enjoy the journey.