How do you treat yourself when you get it wrong. You forget to put out the garbage/ yell at the kids/ get the meeting time wrong/ fail on zoom connection/ miss a great opportunity/ can’t find the words …. Etc. etc.?
Us humans tend to go hard on ourselves when we stuff up. Here’s why.
The hard-wired negativity bias of the human brain amps us into catastrophising and over-reacting when things go wrong.
It’s not our fault. It’s an evolutionary function of the brain.
The catastrophising and over-reacting engages the ‘red zone’, or threat-alert aspect of the nervous system. We get stuck in thrashing ourselves and feeling bad.
Wait, there is another way.
What if we were to treat ourselves kindly, like we would a close friend, when we stuff up?
It may not come naturally (it’s not hard-wired) though we can train ourselves to take this different approach.
Self-kindness engages the ‘green zone’, the calm and restful aspect of the nervous system. It’s the opposite to ‘red zone’ threat-land. The two systems do not overlap. They interchange. When one side is online, the other is offline.
We can switch off red by going green. Exchange self-criticism for self-kindness.
When we give ourself self-compassion, it releases feel-good neurochemicals such as oxytocin and opiates. Conversely, beating ourself up triggers stress chemicals like cortisol.
Under the influence of stress chemicals we feel overwhelmed and helpless.
The feel-good natural opiates, by contrast, give us strength and resilience.
Self-kindness, then, is a dynamic coping mechanism. It’s a high-powered way of staying sane. It might sound really obvious, but think about it: do we do it naturally?