Self-compassion may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your plan for fitness success. It’s often easier to focus on what’s wrong and what needs to change. However, an attitude of self-criticism is not necessarily going to be the healthiest approach to a positive relationship with fitness. This article explores the benefits of self-compassion and shares practical tips like affirmations for becoming more self-compassionate to get better fitness results.
Self-compassion is essentially about empathy, kindness, and love for yourself. It’s about recognizing and accepting your humanness and imperfections, and loving yourself throughout the good times and the not-so-good. Essentially, practicing self-compassion necessitates that you treat yourself with the same kindness you would show a friend who is feeling down.
In a health and fitness sense, self-compassion requires you to realize there is very rarely a linear path to success. Barriers will present themselves. You might get sick. Unexpected work or family commitments may pop up, and some days you could simply be lacking in motivation. When these challenges do occur, self-compassion helps you to avoid berating yourself. Instead, it offers you a method to remain centered, to love yourself unconditionally, and to keep moving forward when the going gets tough.
Self-compassion is not about being lazy or taking the easy way out. It should be considered as one of many facets of self-improvement. Self-compassion uses positive techniques for improving your mindset, and in turn, your health and fitness.
When you practice self-compassion you’re more likely to stay on track with healthy eating and fitness plans, even when there are challenges in the midst. And if you get off track, you’ll find it easier to get back on the wagon sooner, rather than derailing completely.
Studies have shown that self-compassion is positively related to intrinsic exercise motivation. It is different to self-esteem because it does not require performance evaluations compared with others. Whilst self-esteem and self-compassion both involve positivity towards the self, self-compassion can be an especially useful approach to draw on when it comes to health and fitness. When shortcomings are highlighted or confidence wavers, self-compassion is the solid foundation that helps you maintain a positive sense of self.
Essentially, when you love and accept yourself completely, you’ll be able to ride the ebbs and flows of your triumphs and disappointments more easily. With a few techniques up your sleeve, you can help yourself stay grounded on the path towards achieving your fitness goals.
There are several techniques that can help you embrace an attitude of self-compassion. Try one or more of the following to get started.
Positive affirmations can help you treat yourself with kindness, even when your fitness plan hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to. Affirmations are positive statements that remind you of your worth irrespective of the situation or your experience. Positive affirmations start with the thoughts you have, and translate to the words you say. In turn, they can impact the way you feel…which could even translate into more energy, enthusiasm and motivation for a workout.
You can write positive affirmations in a journal, stick them somewhere prominent, and ideally, read them aloud. They should resonate with you on a personal level, so write down some affirmations that feel empowering and relevant to you.
Examples could include:
“I am strong, fit, happy, and healthy”
“I can achieve anything I want to”
“When slip-ups occur I have the mindset and tools to confidently get back on track and pursue my goals”
Focusing on what you have and what you can do helps instill a sense of appreciation that can increase motivation and keep things in perspective. Even though you may not have achieved exactly what you wanted to, focus on what HAS gone well, and what you are thankful for. Again, gratitude should resonate with you personally. A couple of examples are included as follows.
When you’re disappointed you haven’t yet reached a fitness goal you’ve been striving for:
“I’m grateful that I’m fitter and healthier than I was six months ago. My body is stronger, I feel more energetic, and overall, I’m making progress”
If you’re frustrated that you had to miss an exercise session due to work or family commitments:
“I’m thankful that I’ve already been able to do two sessions this week and that I have a solid plan in place to keep things on track”.
Mindfulness is about being present and aware in each moment. Whether you’re practicing mindful eating, exercising, thinking, or interactions with others, moment-to-moment awareness helps you to maintain an attitude of non-judgment. Mindfulness can help promote self-compassion because it helps you to come from a place of observation, rather than judgment, in any situation. When something goes awry with your fitness plan, mindfulness can help you to observe the feelings that come with that, and let them pass.
Connecting with others can help remind you that you are not alone. Successes and setbacks are common human experiences that have been shared by countless others. Instead of stewing in your problems alone, connect with others. Share your experiences and challenges with others, whether that’s a trusted friend or a positive support group. Human connections help instill a feeling of interconnectedness and serve as a reminder of the imperfections that exist everywhere, not just with ourselves.