tough love or compassion bba

Self-Compassion: Too Much or Not Enough?

Do you ever ask yourself if you’re giving yourself too much self-compassion? 


Maybe you need a bit more tough love to succeed with your habits? 


Stick around, and I’m going to answer that question for you. 

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My name is Jimena Ramirez. I’m a behavior change coach and the director of coaching and program strategy here at Body Brain Alliance. 

With our coaching clients and the products we offer, we use a compassionate approach as one of our pillars. 

First of all, what is a compassionate approach? 


A compassionate approach doesn’t mean that we don’t push you to try to be better or to change. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have direct and hard conversations. It means that we don’t believe in the “just do it” approach, or the “just push harder” approach. 


A compassionate approach means that we understand that everyone is going through something. 


It is important to acknowledge that, and that pushing and shaming yourself in a way that makes you feel bad is rarely going to create lasting change.


We teach our clients how to use those shortcomings to understand more about themselves, about their behaviors, and how they can change in a way that is gentle. In a way that is nourishing to them and to their future behavior and to their present self. 

We believe that no one is broken. 

No one needs to be fixed. 


It’s our mission as coaches to help you understand more about yourself, about the way your brain works and how you can create conditions for more success in your own life. 


So compassion is really about fostering curiosity over judgment and understanding more about how we operate and actually using that to produce that long-term change that we’re seeking. 


How do you know if you need more compassion or more tough love? 


If you’re asking yourself that question, the answer is very likely that you need a bit more compassion.


And it is important to mention that compassion is not and should not be antagonistic to still taking action. 


It is about how we are choosing to move towards that action. 


It’s about feeling that we’re growing and choosing to acknowledge that it is about being able to understand what didn’t go well without dwelling on that. 

It is about being able to celebrate what is going well, even if we are not where we want to be yet. 


We absolutely encourage you to pair compassion with action, and we want that action to feel authentic, mindful, and intentional in a way where we don’t need to fear failure as we are taking action because we know that that failure is not the end of the world. 


It’s just one more part of your behavior change journey, and you will continue to make progress even if you’re failing along the way. 


What is the difference between self-compassion and self-indulgence? 

This is a difference that clients sometimes struggle to understand, and when clients are telling us that they’re afraid to be too compassionate…


What I’m seeing is that they’re actually talking about being self-indulgent. 

Here’s an example that illustrates this beautifully when it comes to self-compassion and self-indulgence and the different extremes that we can go into. 


Think about the situation where there is a parent or a caretaker and a kid gets home and says that they failed their test. 


So they tell the parent or their caretaker, “I failed my test.”


In one scenario, the parent would say, “Well, of course you did. I didn’t even see you study once. Go to your room and you’re not going out for the weekend and you can’t have your phone and this is terrible.”


That would be the judgmental parent. 


That parent didn’t even ask what happened or try to find out why they think it didn’t go well?


They didn’t even give the kid the benefit of the doubt. 


They didn’t help them explore. That parent simply punished them thinking that was going to yield the best result. 

Another scenario where the kid comes home and says, “I failed my test.” 


And the parent says, “That’s fine. Tests are stupid anyway. Let’s just go and get ice cream, okay?”


So in that situation, the parent is trying to provide comfort by offering something else and taking the kids’ mind off failing the test, but it’s not really offering something about reflection regarding what they could do, what could go better, or encouraging them to try again. 


It’s more like, forget about it. This is stupid. 


That is the indulgent parent, and there is something in between which is the compassionate parent. 


And in this final scenario, the kid comes home and says, “I failed my test.”

And the compassionate parent is going to be saying something like…


“I’m so sorry that you failed. That must be really frustrating. What do you think went wrong? Do you think there was something that you could have done differently? Do you think there’s some way that I could support you? Maybe we can hire a tutor to help you with this. Anyway, we’ll figure it out. Don’t worry about it. Get ready for dinner. We’ll relax, and tomorrow will be a new day, and we’ll work on that.”


The compassionate parent is asking, what do you think happened? 

They’re encouraging the kid to get curious about their behavior, about their result, about how they could do better. 


The parent is encouraging them to take action: Let’s try something tomorrow. Let’s hire a tutor. Let’s think about this. 


They’re not shaming the kid. 


Instead, they’re trying to help them understand their behavior, validating how they feel. They’re not giving them a free pass. 


They’re actually saying, we’re going to try again, but they’re not immediately going into judgment mode. 


We can apply this to ourselves. 


You probably don’t need to try harder or push yourself, but you may need more compassionate awareness about what did not work so that you can tweak that when you’re taking action next.


And being able to get curious about things requires us to not go immediately into judgment mode because that means that we have already made a decision about why this is happening. 


So we are probably not going to be digging into that and getting curious about why? 


Wondering what didn’t go well, or how we could do different and giving ourselves that benefit of doubt. 


When you’re thinking, “Should I apply more tough love in my journey?”


I want you to think about being that compassionate parent to yourself. 

Think about how you can be curious. 


How you can encourage action, and you can at the same time do so while making you feel good along that journey, which is going to create more lasting change. 


Thank you for reading, see you in the next one!

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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.


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