Testing one, two, testing….did you take the test, the self-compassion test yet? There is a link to it in the last blog. It’s true there is an actual test, 26 questions to determine if you are low, moderate or high in compassion for yourself. The reason to know is that there are health implications. Folks that score high are more optimistic and happier with less anxiety and depression. And they make healthier lifestyle choices about food consumption and issues of weight loss.
This makes perfect sense to me although it may be contrary to popular pundit opinion. Why? Self acceptance is the beginning of change. Accepting the actual reality of our common humanity means letting go of perfectionism to appreciate the wonder of our common beauty as we are. Sure, maybe you do need to lose some weight. But you don’t have to beat yourself up about it to lose it. In fact, beating yourself up may have just the opposite effect. The belittling self talk only makes you feel bad about yourself and more likely to then use food as a medicative behavior for those bad feelings.
Dr. Kristin Neff, who came up with the test, makes the point clearly. She said that the reason many folks aren’t scoring higher is cultural. ”Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”
I had a patient who was overweight who came in to see me and I noted that she looked great. It was clear she had lost weight. I asked her how and she said something that fits in this discussion. She told me about standing naked in front of a mirror and looking for long periods at her image. Her goal was to love and accept the person looking back at her in the mirror. The better she got at doing that, the more she made healthier choices and the more weight she lost.
Here’s Dr. Neff, “if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”
The NY Times article, 3/1/11, says a much shorter test can get at some of what we are talking about here relative to self-compassion. It’s just one question. Do you treat yourself as well as you treat folks you care about, your friends and family? If you do, great. If not, start. You’re worth it. And you’ll lead a healthier life while infecting friends and family by example.