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Motivate Yourself Without Pushing Yourself: Tips for Self-Compassion

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“Our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion.” ~Buddha

I have always struggled with self-compassion. In fact, I’m not even sure I have been aware of it all that much throughout my life.

I’ve always thought the only way to truly grow was to push myself, both physically and mentally, so without even realizing it, I set myself up for that.

I would not study for my university exams until the night before. I would take it easy and not make enough money until it got to the stage that I had to almost create a miracle to pay my next credit card bill. I would push my partner until our relationship was at a breaking point so I could then save it.

It was almost like I wanted to prove to myself that I was a hero in someway. As I reflect back now, it was so strange what I was doing, but the truth was I was not even aware I was doing it.

Over the past few years I could see my patterns more and more. It shocked me that I would be that unconscious of my motivations.

But as I dived into it, I could see that I actually had a fear that I’d somehow be less if I took that pressure off myself. It was the pressure that was keeping me motivated and more importantly keeping me growing.

I wondered if I had to continue like that. What would happen if I let it go? Would I stop being as great as I could be?

Then I became aware of self-compassion. It was a foreign concept to me, and one I remember fighting against for some time. My ego did not want to just give in that easy!

At first I felt that I would become more self centered, and that was big no-no—after all, aren’t we all here to serve others, not ourselves?

But then I started see what my lack of self-compassion was really doing to me. It was, in fact, the very thing that was isolating me from the world and making me self-centered.

I was so caught up in my own struggles and issues that I had begun to feel that I was the only one on the planet going through what I was.

I had forgotten that all my friends were feeling the same way as me; they too were struggling in life, and I had not seen it. My issues were not greater than everyone else’s, after all.

As I saw this more clearly I felt myself soften to compassion for myself, and those around me. I started to “feel” compassion for the first time.

I recall pondering one day, how I would feel in a relationship if I treated my partner or child in the same way I had been treating myself? Would I really be that motivated to keep going each day?

The never-ending berating and judgments, constantly trying to fix, change, or improve myself, never being enough. How motivated can you stay under such conditions?

I would have never expected anyone to respond positively to this, but yet I expected myself to. Something was very wrong with my perception of myself.

It was at that moment that my belief structure started to collapse on itself, and I realized that I did not have to be that hard on myself for motivation. I could actually be kind and it would have an even greater effect.

Bit by bit, I felt self-acceptance, and a love came over me like waves, like it had been wanting to come through for so many years, but I had blocked it.

All I had been looking for was sweeping over me in one giant gush. It felt amazing and it felt true. I knew that I’m okay the way I am.

I suddenly felt a common bond with humanity again. Like we are all perfect in our imperfect way, and that is actually what it’s meant to be like.

I realized that I do not have to get everything right everytime. I do not have to be changed or improved; I just need to accept who I am right now.

The pain and sorrow I had been feeling my whole life rose up, and I could clearly see what I had done to myself for decades. I was sorry for this, so very sorry.

I broke down and cried and cried. I had been so mean to myself. The pain and struggles of the last few decades came pouring out of me like the dam gates had been opened.

I felt relief for the first time. I could not do this any longer; there was simply no need. I had done nothing wrong by just being me.

This was one of the most significant moments in my life—the acceptance of myself through self-compassion.

My tips to create more self-compassion include:

1. Be aware if you are being hard on yourself and recognize where this shows up for you.

It can be subtle. Look at all life areas, including your health, finances, and relationships, at work and in your family.

2. Challenge your beliefs and fears. 

Do you have a belief that if you are gentle with yourself you will somehow not be motivated enough or not all you can be? Recognize that this doesn’t have to be true. Also, notice if you feel that being compassionate toward yourself will lead you to feel self-indulgent or selfish.

3. Treat yourself kindly, without judgment.

Picture your best friend and how you treat them. Now apply this same love and kindness to yourself. You should be your own best friend after all!

4. Be mindful of when you slip out of compassion and start to treat yourself harshly again.

Forgive yourself and understand that you are human and this is part of the human game.

5. Feel the pain of others around you.

Listen to their stories and feel what it must be like to be them. This will make you automatically feel compassion and be softer on yourself as you connect with their common humanity.

We all have issues and problems that cause us pain, but suffering through them is optional. Self-compassion provides another option.

Photo by JFXie

Profile photo of Nat Smith

About Nat Smith

Natalie Smith is the head writer and publisher of Into Me I See Magazine. Driven by a strong inner knowing of truth and a love of writing, Natalie has co-founded her magazine to facilitate the collaboration of many of the world’s leading Wayseers on Self-Love and Self-Acceptance.

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  • Marijn

    Dear Nat,

    What you say sounds very familiar. Although I have felt it more often I can only see since a couple of months how harsh I can be towards myself and yes sometimes others. How demanding, pushing.

    Last couple of years have been hectic. The short version: my relationship ended, a stressful and painful period followed. I moved to another city, recovered. The beginning of this year I lost my job, and I moved back to my parents.

    I think I needed all the chaos, the realising that there are situation that you simply cannot fight against, situations in which you can not demand something from yourself, simply because you hit rock bottom, and there is no energy left to push.. I started to get familiar with compassion. Not as abrupt as you did. It took time and still takes. It took and takes silence. Me being completely with myself. Scary. I observe my behavior, my thoughts, and I realise how I am continously demanding things from myself, be cool, be strong, be useful, be pretty. And by putting the standard always out of reach I am never there….

    So I conscioulsy learn myself to be ok, I either let my thoughts be or I correct them, and I simply enjoy the moment and me being in it.

  • Hi Marijn

    Yes I have no doubt my story sounds all too familiar to most! It is such an easy habit to fall into… believing we need to be more than we are. The ego just loves that doesn’t it.

    I too moved back to my parents place only 2 years ago now. It was hard to swollow at the time, all the stories I told myself about being a failure that I had to go back to my parents to get my life sorted out. But the truth was it was an amazing time to reconnect with them, this time as an adult and I will treasure it as they continue to get on in age.

    When I could see how it benefited my life living with them for a period I stopped berating myself. In fact I have noticed that whenever I see how something serves me I stop beating myself up, and instead see it as a magnificent creation of mine. This has been a massive step towards self compassion and self love.

    It’s funny with chaos… it gives you no choice but to surrender. So too with feeling tired and overwhelmed. Eventually you give up the fight. And that is why we create it… so we have no energy left to fight and instead surrender to the greater part of ourselves. So in that way I see it as another great creation of ours!

    I don’t believe compassion happened for me in a quick way… it still takes time and it takes constant reminders every single day to be gentle on myself, on the people around me and on life itself. In fact it was only this morning I reminded myself of this when I caught myself being overly demanding on getting things done on my to do list… oops slipped back in it again without realising!

    I am actually doing a housesit in an absolutely stunning house and property in south west France at the moment, and the thing that has struck me so prominently here is that everyone does the ‘lifestyle’ thing. Everyone takes 2 hours for lunch.. even the supermarkets! It’s so foreign to me coming originally from Australia. But has been one of the best reminders of self compassion in so many ways; that you don’t have to push and push all the time. You can take time out and you can have a lifestyle… you can be kind to yourself and enjoy your life. I have realised from this experience just how important lifestyle is for me and my partner and we have started to incorporate it alot more into our day to day. So now when we do sit down to do our magazine, or marketing, or whatever else, it is actually productive and focused work. And another thing that the French have got absolutely nailed is the indulgence part of life… cheese, chocolate, wine… they indulge freely in it all. It’s like a goddess lifestyle here and again this element has made both of us relax into the flow of life and have far more self compassion, self love and appreciation for everything. Essentially we have slowed down to life and our own flow.

    I am so glad that we all have each other in this community to remind us of these all important things that move us ever closer to remembering the truth of who we ‘really’ are… amazingly infinite beings that are already enough. Thankyou for sharing Marijn <3

  • Susan

    Wow! This couldn’t have been more timely for me. Thank you so much for sharing the keys for what I need to be kinder and more loving to myself.

  • You are most welcome Susan… always Divine timing! 😀

  • Linda Elizabeth Paul

    dear Natalie

    i am so grateful that i read this article of yours. your explanation of how you came to recognise the value of self-compassion etc. has resounded so very strongly within me that i had to tell you about it.

    there are times when i have felt so utterly lost because i feel like i do so many things to reach out to others and be of help to them, and most of what they choose to give me back is… nothing (or worse: negativity).

    i do know about not doing something with the expectation of getting something back – that’s not the problem. it’s just that when it seems i’ve done thirty things for others i feel like maybe, somewhere, just one person could have returned the kindness, and then my world turns a little black!

    perhaps i have blinded myself by expecting great success from my own actions, and forgotten my innate fallibility.

    so off to the tissues and meditation spot i go.

    blessings,
    linda

  • Hi Linda

    Thanks so much for sharing authentically. I really felt what you wrote and I also felt alot of pain there. Your comments bring up many things for me, if I may write from the heart and what was intuitively coming up for me when I read what you wrote.

    I feel that there is still a desire, even subconsciously, for some sort of recognition from your giving of yourself to others. Whilst as you say you do not have so many expectations of a return from those you give to, I do feel that you are still using your giving to gain something from it. The ego can be sneaky like that! 😀 It thrives on recognition and significance. Ask yourself really honestly do you feel that you do service for others to get something from it or purely out of love? When we do anything for a reason other than a great love of it, we automatically get caught in the cycle of ego.

    Ask yourself also, do you look to the outside world to give you something? This really follows on from what I mentioned above. Ultimately the outside world is purely a refection of your inner world and that is all it is – it has no power to give you anything. Everything you seek and see comes from within you. At the highest level of truth, nothing exists outside of ourselves, it is all a reflection of our consciousness.

    The Universal Law of Reflection states that everything we feel and perceive about the outside world including people that come into our space, is purely a reflection of our inner world and how we feel about ourselves. Perhaps meditate on this Law and see how you feel about different aspects of your life and those around you, and see how it directly reflects the honest feelings you have for yourself. What we see in others, both the good and the bad, is also within you to the same degree. This can be a hard pill to swollow at times, but is also a great key to freedom within as it is the path of self acceptance taught by so many ancient wisdom teachings.

    I would suggest that my post above really resonated with you because deep down inside you know it is time to give to yourself now. When you give to yourself first, you are then full enough to give to others, it does not deplete you. And one of the best ways to give to yourself is to do what you love and fill your life with things and feelings that are true for you, not everyone else. When you are so full of love it spills into those around you and helping others becomes part of this effortless flow of love. Then you will naturally do things for others purely because that is what you would absolutely love to do; and that is true giving!

    Self compassion and self love are the most important things you will ever do to help someone else. Think of a person you know or know of that has a deep heartfelt love and acceptance for themselves; how do they make you feel when you connect with them? Do they naturally reflect love back to you and make you feel like you want to be around them more in their energy? That is the power of self love to those around you.

    And my feelings if people give you negativity is that it is their stuff. You will find often that when you feel positive you will get negative reactions. This is not reflective of you but their own feelings of being inadequate coming out. It has nothing to do with you, it’s just that our ego loves to make everything personal; that is, we all have a tendency to make other peoples feelings and opinions all about us. Again due to the Law of Reflection, their feelings of the outside world will be reflective of their inner world. No one has control over someones else’s inner world. Other peoples feelings are just that, other peoples! 😉 All we can ultimately do is stay on course for what is true for us and live our own authentic truth. We each have a different journey here specifically set up for us.

    And whilst it sounds like self promotion, it really isn’t, can I strongly suggest that you look at the magazine I publish with my partner, http://www.Into-Me-I-See-Mag.com where we have a whole issue dedicated to Self Compassion. Alot of these concepts and more have been discussed in that issue, in fact I was prompted to write this post after we published that issue as I could see how important the topic was for people. It dives into self compassion and compassion for others in all areas of life so you can see how to integrate it more for yourself. I know you will get alot from it from what you have written. All our issues are free for download.

    Blessings and unconditional love to you Linda
    Nat

  • Jess

    Gosh, hearing your experiences almost made me realize the reason why i so feel empty after pushing myself like crazy at the last minute and still being in this state of restlessness and being lost even after achieving my goals sometimes. I really have some revaluation to do!

  • shiva

    How I can get Relief From Negative Thaughts in my Mind…

  • Michael

    Thank you for posting…

    This resonates with me from a ime ago, and to a lesser extent, but still to a little, now…

    What you write of about leaving things to last minute related to me to latent perfectionistic, somewhat narcissistic tendencies manifesting in procrastination.

    It also relates in my view/feeling to ‘incubation’ – a positive state where people can work out thigns in mind, have a big picture before apparently ‘starting’. In reality though the process of starting and doing began long ago and I agree it’s conuterproductive to lambast yourself… (I know he feeling, and agree that it relates to having a sense that you’re problems are different, somehow unique or special etc.. Very different to the view I have now and that which you’re expressing – about how interconnected essentially we all are, and the importance of taking care of ourselves, really, if we are to be able to be in a position to really be present with others, give of ourselves, make moments etc…

    I’m grateful to have read this… Namasté..

  • Thanks for posting article this is useful for me. To read the more self motivation article instituteofselfmastery blog.

  • Vishal

    I resonate completely with everything you have written. I always wait till the end and then study for my university exams and every other thing. Its like it doesn’t seem intellectually challenging to me at normal times. Sometimes I start doing my assignments and halfway through when I know I can do it I stop and don’t even submit them. A person once told me I am self destructive. I have realized all this and tried to change and work everyday but I can’t seem to do it. I fail everyday. Every single day. And yet the next day I try.

    On reading this blog I realize there are things I haven’t looked at yet. I must work towards self compassion. Thank you for sharing this.

    Best,
    Vishal

  • Helen Jones

    hello there! what a great article! I just graduated from college and I am stucked in the idea of where to begin to start my career. I am from zero! I must find ways to motivate myself. Your tips are really helpful. Let me share my story, I remember a write up by Moustafa Hamwi, he suggested to make a list of effects if I achieved a certain goal. Eg: What would happen if I got a job? 1. Great income 2. Supporting family needs 3. etc. It was really inspirational!