If I could make a guess about you, I’d bet that you’re harder on yourself than anyone else.
Am I right?
You’re hard on yourself because being a good person matters to you. You want to be good at what you do. You want to be good to the people you love. You don’t want to let anyone down. You don’t want to let yourself down.
Because of that, it feels frustrating when certain parts of your life don’t fall into place like they should.
For some women, that’s their working situation. For others, it’s their health. And for many, it’s their love life.
When you have the sense that you ought to be in a relationship—with a man who wants marriage, no less—you can feel inadequate. It feels like everyone else is in a committed relationship, and the only reason you’re not is because you don’t “measure up” somehow.
So you come down even harder on yourself.
You tell yourself all sorts of horrible things. Like you’re too unattractive or too overweight, too boring or too old. You pick apart everything you think a man could find wrong about you.
And when you go out on a date … and he doesn’t call you back … you assume you know why. He’s seen what you see when you look in the mirror. Someone tired and worn down. Someone not pretty enough, not sexy enough, not fascinating enough to interest a man.
As a man, I can let you in a little secret…
That’s NOT what he sees.
He doesn’t see what you see. He’s not sitting there across from you, picking you apart. To him, you’re just you. Either he likes the experience of being with you, or he’s not feeling it. And he can’t really explain why.
If there’s one thing that distinguishes men from women in dating, it’s the degree to which they analyze every interaction. Men don’t do much analyzing, and women do a LOT.
So all the stuff that’s going through your head when you’re trying to figure out why the date went wrong or why he didn’t call you? That’s YOUR stuff.
You’re trying to guess what he thought of you, but all you’re coming up with are the same old thoughts you’ve always had about yourself. You’re using rejection as an excuse to beat up on yourself.
And Dr. Kristin Neff wants you to stop. Here’s why…
Dr. Neff is the world’s foremost expert on self-compassion. (You may know her from the 2009 documentary “The Horse Boy,” in which she and her husband take their autistic son to Mongolia in search of healing.)
She believes that the relentless cycle of self-judgment must end. It’s not making us happy, and it’s not making us better people.
What the world needs is more self-compassion, which is simply having the same kind of compassion for yourself as you have for those you love.
No, you’re not perfect. Yes, people sometimes reject you. Of course it hurts. It’s okay to feel pain. But perhaps, instead of getting mad at yourself or mad at those rejecting you, you could bring some compassion to your pain, just as you would soothe a friend who’s hurting.
We’re not very good at taking care of ourselves emotionally. We tend to think that, if we feel pain, it means something is wrong. We feel a sense of injustice. It’s not fair that we tried our best and ended up getting hurt.
But suffering is part of life. You can’t escape it.
So why not accept that “hurt happens” … and learn to comfort and care for yourself through it?
Dr. Neff is quick to clarify that self-compassion does not mean self-pity or self-indulgence. It’s not about saying, “Woe is me,” or taking a day off work to drown your sorrows in junk food and daytime TV.
It’s about doing for yourself what you’d do for a good friend. You wouldn’t want a friend to get stuck in feeling sorry for herself or self-sabotaging behaviors. You’d listen to her, reaffirm the validity of her feelings, and perhaps share some of your own experiences.
It helps us feel better when we realize that suffering is universal. We aren’t the only ones who’ve been rejected. It’s part of the human condition.
Self-compassion can also help us when our self-esteem has taken a beating.
When you’re feeling down on yourself, your friends might try to pump you up by telling you how amazing you are. But what you often need just then is something else. You need your pain recognized. Allowing yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, without judgment, helps your emotions pass through faster.
So the next time a date doesn’t go well, don’t waste time worrying about what you did wrong. Have compassion for yourself. Let yourself feel the disappointment, then move on. The next guy might just be the guy who loves you more than you love yourself.