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Self-compassion is a necessary instrument for all entrepreneurs

September
20, 2020

5 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

The ongoing uncertainty about Covid-19 is wearing us down. Many people suffer from increased self-doubt and seemingly endless distractions. This is especially difficult for entrepreneurs; whose companies often rely on staying focused and making quick decisions. It's difficult to build and grow a business when your head is filled with an endless stream of bad news and related negative self-talk.

What can a normally happy, ambitious entrepreneur do in these challenging times? The answer can be found in a simple but powerful technique: self-compassion. The process is based on Buddhist teachings. It just asks you to have compassion for yourself, regardless of who you are or how successful you may or may not be. Because we all deserve compassion and understanding.

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This doesn't mean you shouldn't take action to improve things. Damn you are an entrepreneur. You improve things in what you do. What it means is that all of these perceived flaws should be acknowledged, but instead of negative self-talk, replace kindness. Basically, it's a permit that allows you to stop being so incredibly harsh on yourself.

Unlike self-esteem, self-compassion is not tied to external events. Yes, it may be annoying not to get a customer or get your story published online (just saying), but with a little self-compassion you can minimize the previously negative self-talk and increase your emotional resilience. This will make you better prepared and able to deal with whatever the future holds.

These practices have been shown to be effective in different groups and settings. In her research, Kristin Neff, best known in the field, compared self-compassion to self-esteem and found that it was a source of resilience. While self-esteem and the inevitable comparisons that come with it can make you feel “less than,” self-compassion leads to increased inner strength.

This is especially helpful given the human tendency towards negativity. In a recent study, scientists found that the average person had about 6,200 thoughts in a single day (and we all know that most entrepreneurs tend to outperform), with about 80 percent of them negative. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic was the fact that 95 percent of those thoughts were the same as the day before – that's a lot of uncomfortable thoughts.

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These days, all you have to do is be online for a few minutes before your latent cave woman's brain is in charge and negative thoughts take control. This eventually turns inward, amplifying any mistakes you think you made during the day. Those thoughts spin around unless you find the pause button.

Find self-compassion

Self-compassion is not a "magic bullet". It won't cause the pain you feel or the reasons you feel it go away. This will help you become more attentive to what you are feeling and how you are reacting to it. We have all gone through difficult times and know that fighting reality can often only make things worse.

With self-compassion, you mindfully accept that the moment is painful and choose to respond to yourself with the same kindness and care that you would have as a good friend. The focus of the practice is the acceptance and recognition of our common humanity and common human experience. Taken together, this enables you to be present and connected and create more growth and transformation – important components in developing and maintaining a business.

Self-compassion has three main elements:

Self-goodness v. Self judgment

Try to treat yourself with kindness instead of judging yourself or ignoring the pain when you feel inadequate. We all know that we can't always be or get exactly what we want, but suffering in the form of stress, frustration, and self-criticism is optional.

Common humanity versus isolation

Entrepreneurship in and of itself can be an isolating experience. The suffering that we often associate with perceived inadequacies can add to this feeling of isolation. Self-compassion connects us to the very real fact that we all have these feelings and that it is a common human experience.

Mindfulness against over-identification

When things feel difficult, it is easy to get caught up in the negative emotions you are feeling (that pesky negative tendency), identify with them, and be overwhelmed. Mindfulness encourages us to take a non judgmental approach in which we observe our thoughts and feelings for what they are, but do not overly identify with them and become caught up and carried away by the negative reaction.

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Just be a little kinder to ourselves

Self-compassion can support your well-being during difficult times. It can improve how you deal with the stress, anxiety, and frustration that usually comes with it, and be more effective in helping you deal with the growing list of tasks that all need to be done. Most importantly, it is a trainable skill that will not only help you survive the ups and downs of business, but will also help you thrive.

Despite our best efforts, none of us will ever be perfect. It is not always possible to avoid mistakes, achieve your goals, or avoid the many challenges that can make life more interesting and difficult at the same time. However, it is possible to just be a little kinder, gentler, and more forgiving to make you feel more resilient and better able to face whatever comes your way.

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