We've all had terrible days at work, and often, we can resort to self-blame and self-pity. A boss criticizes a project we've been working hard on for months. We have a mountain of never-ending work. We're having a tough time in our personal life, and we can't give our best work.
School of Life Founder and Philosopher Alain De Botton says we need to be kinder to ourselves in these moments. In his recent video titled, Self-Compassion, De Botton says, "we have to carve out time for an emotional state of which many of us are profoundly suspicious: self-compassion. We need to appreciate the role of self-care in a good, ambitious and fruitful life."
He introduces what he calls a self-compassion exercise: a 15-minute meditation that you can do lying in bed, at your desk, or while on break. The point of the exercise is to interrupt a critical sequence of thoughts and correct the flow of some of our worst self-accusations, blame, and pity.
In six simple steps, here's what he wants us to recognize to be kinder to ourselves:
1. The task was very hard: We can be so obsessed with success, that we don't realize the scale of challenges and expectations we set for ourselves. We failed, but given the mountain we tried to climb, the conclusion doesn't have to be that we're simply fools.
2. We weren't properly equipped by our histories: Some of us have a tricky past, and perhaps there were things that happened to us at the hand of others that affect us today. It isn't our fault in the here and now.
3. Undramatic, quiet failure is the statistical norm: Media can so easily influence us to believe that everyone is successful. De Botton says though that quiet failure by a huge margin is the statistical norm. He adds, we shouldn't tear ourselves apart, by what were by truth awesome odds.
4. Luck is real: It's often believed that winners make their own luck, but they don't. Luck is a geniune feature of existence. De Botton reminds us: we're robbing ourselves of fair constellation by believing we're entirely in control and then entirely to blame when we fail and crash.
5. Your whole worth is not dependent on external things: Your whole worth is made up of more than material things. Remember and rehearse the internalized voices of all those who have been kind to you since your childhood.
6. This too shall pass: In moments of crisis, it often feels like the bad will never end. Well, De Botton urges you to reduce your expectations to zero for some time. Take each new hour as it comes, and simply get some rest.
So, when you feel like you've tried to climb the same mountain all day and didn't make any progress, take De Botton's advice: say something kind to yourself so you can get back up tomorrow and try again with a positive mindset.