“The reason you don’t let your children eat five big tubs of ice cream is because you care about them. With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”
In her NY Times blog, Well, Tara Parker-Pope writes about a blossoming area of research, called “self-compassion.” Above is a quote she cites from Dr. Kristin Neff, who has published on the topic, explaining an aspect of self-compassion – being kind to yourself.
A psychologist myself, I won’t bore you with the academic argument about whether this ‘new’ field is really a study of self-esteem or self-worth, repackaged and relabeled. To be honest, I haven’t taken the time to investigate whether discriminant validity studies have been attempted or make any educated judgments about the quality of research completed on the subject. I really don’t care.
What I like about Tara Parker-Pope’s article on self-compassion (and Dr. Neff’s work) is simple:
If we expected of ourselves the same we expect of our closest loved ones, we would likely make healthier decisions for ourselves and not berate ourselves for minor transgressions. Unfortunately, we often don’t value our own health and our own needs as much as those of others.
The sentences I quote from Dr. Neff above illustrate this idea well. Many of us living with medically necessary dietary restrictions are trying to navigate social situations involving shared meals, trying to unlearn years of eating habits that center on convenience food, or struggling to fight the temptation to eat “just one bite” of our partner’s delicious-looking, gluten-containing food.
The idea that we should continue to ask ourselves, “What would I tell a dear friend to do in my situation?” has miles of latitude. For example, if your son or daughter was gluten free, wouldn’t you do everything you could to make sure he or she ate safely; would you tolerate even a crumb of gluten containing food on his or her plate? In another example, if your good friend was deathly allergic to nuts, would you let him or her eat a slice of banana bread that may or may not contain nuts and risk the consequences?
If you are living, breathing, compassionate people, then my guess is the answer is “no.” We want our loved ones to eat well, stay healthy, and live long.
If you are living, breathing, compassionate people, then the answer should be the same when you replace “your son” or “your good friend” with “you.”
Since this is a gluten-free food blog, many of you are gluten free or have a gluten-free loved one, so my examples here center around food; feeling ourselves worth standing up for, worth speaking up for, and worth making the effort for, when it comes to knowing what is good for our bodies and what is not.
However, try applying this simple question to other areas of your life and you might be surprised at how this act of self-compassion encourages you to forget a minor foot-in-mouth accident as just that, an accident, or that (darn it!) you are talented enough to try out for that juried art show.
You might be surprised at how many barriers cease to exist when you stop fighting what you know is good for you and take a chance on what you know you can do.