In this Feel Good Effect podcast episode, we are talking about how to be gentle with yourself versus using it as an excuse, what gentle and self-compassion really are, and how a mindset shift can allow things to become more joyful and sustainable.
How to Balance Being Gentle with Yourself vs. Using It As An Excuse
Gentle is the new perfect
I talk a lot about this concept of being gentle with yourself, about the idea that “gentle is the new perfect”, and about how self-kindness can transform the way that you are in the world and your overall well being.
I argue from both a science-based and life-tested perspective that this gentle-mindset shift is a game-changer.
It leads to more happiness and resilience.
I am frequently asked how we can be gentle while still getting things done and how to not use being gentle as an excuse.
How do I be gentle but still eat healthy? How can I be gentle but still achieve at work?
First of all, it’s a very normal worry and takes a lot of self-awareness to even ask yourself those questions.
We’ll talk about the idea of gentleness, what it is, what it’s not, and how to use it to find a middle-ground of respecting yourself and still growing.
In fact, growth and self-kindness are not opposite, that are actually one and the same.
The gentle, feel-good mindset
The gentle mindset is a way of thinking with a lot of neuroscience behind it.
We have thought patterns that repeat over and over again in our brains.
These ways of thinking prompt an action, something that’s really important to understand, especially when we beat ourselves up for repeating an unwanted habit or behavior.
The actions we take are only the result of our thinking pattern.
We can flip the script on thought patterns, though, and come up with alternative actions for a more joyful and sustainable life.
The Feel Good Mindset is comprised of three major parts:
- The magic middle: getting out of all or nothing and finding the middle ground.
- Gratitude: getting out of comparison and finding gratitude.
When you can live with these components of the Feel Good Mindset, the way you perceive the world changes, as do your actions.
Their research is foundational and life-changing.
As we’ve come to understand it from Dr. Neff’s research, self-compassion is really three things:
- Framing your imperfections in the context of humanity
It’s actually very simple, but perhaps a different way of thinking.
Mindfulness is really just paying attention to how you’re thinking.
For example, if you’ve noticed that you’re struggling to figure out what’s gentle versus what’s pushing yourself, then you’re already paying attention.
If you’re struggling with imperfections, know that they’re very human and treat yourself with kindness.
You’re not alone in those struggles, you’re not alone in those imperfections, and that’s actually what makes you human.
Knowing that common humanity can go a long way in reducing suffering.
The research behind self-compassion
There is so much research to support the effects of self-compassion.
There’s a misunderstanding about what self-compassion really is, however, which causes us to have a more difficult time embracing it.
I find that many people have an idea that if they are kind to themselves, it will make them weak, lazy, or apathetic, despite having so much research supporting the effects of it.
Where the magic lies
To better understand self-compassion and the gentle mindset, simply reframe and ask yourself, “what is the kindest choice I can make for myself right now?”.
When you’re struggling with how to be gentle, how to be compassionate with yourself, the first question to ask is, “how can I be kind?”
You are your own best teacher, and figuring out where compassion is needed in your life is where mindfulness and paying attention come into play.
We aren’t talking about mindfulness in a sitting-on-a-mountain-all-by-yourself way, it’s about paying attention so you can answer that question of self-kindness.
It’s okay if it’s hard at first, in fact, that probably means you’re doing it right (especially if you’ve never asked that question before).
Define what feeling good means to you
It’s hard to be kind when you don’t know what feeling good means.
Feeling good isn’t immediate gratification, it’s something long-term and sustainable.
Once you have an idea of what feeling good means to you, ask yourself, “is this a should or is this a good?”.
The three questions to ask:
- What is the kind choice?
- How is it related to feeling good?
- Is this a should or does it make me feel good?
The kind choice
We know that it’s a lot easier to be compassionate to others than it is to ourselves.
Start by asking yourself, “If this was my best friend, my child, my partner, what would I recommend for them? What would I think the kindest choice for them would be?”.
You can flip it to reframe to come up with the gentle, compassionate response.
It’s important to remember, too, that being compassionate doesn’t hinder growth or mean that you don’t take risks.
But if we want that for the people we love, then we need to want it for ourselves.
It’s a lifelong process to learn what gentle means for you.
I encourage you to practice and embrace the Feel Good Mindset, embrace self-compassion, even know it’s not as sexy as so much of what is available in the wellness category.
Yet, the reason I keep showing up with this message is because I know it works, it has the power to change lives, it’s free, and it’s researched-based.
“Gentle doesn’t mean taking the easy way out”.
It’s not weak, it’s not passive, it’s not giving up.
It’s about paying attention on purpose, treating yourself with kindness, and understanding that imperfections are part of being human.