I have not written a blog post since becoming a mother. Let’s just say that out of the priorities I have, my little people won my attention. I now have two beautiful children who have had a powerful influence on my identity and priorities in the world. Which brings me to why I’m typing again. Today’s date is 15 July 2020. The world is in the throws of a global pandemic. The loss of life related to COVID-19 is now being overshadowed by the predicted loss of life related to the economic fallout from the pandemic.
In the middle of this catastrophic loss of life, my social media feed is full of people treating lock down as a period of self-improvement and transformation. I find this so incredibly TONE DEAF. We are facing the peak of infections in South Africa. Do you want to know what I think is important? Having empathy with the people who have lost family or friends. Acknowledging the hardship of people going hungry. Doing what we can to support local business that are facing ruin.
Some of my clients are feeling uncomfortable due to weight gain during lockdown. I’d like to remind you that the world as we know it has changed. Gyms, which many people rely on for exercise are still closed. Families are being kept apart for fear that being close could kill our parents. Many of our coping skills have been taken away from us. I hear you and I know your discomfort which is why I’m typing this!
One of the biggest lessons of motherhood has been learning to let go of perfection while embracing self-compassion. Self-compassion has three components: responding to oneself with kindness and warmth rather than judgement and criticism, recognition that one’s experiences are not unique and isolated but are common and shared, and mindful awareness of the present moment rather than over-identification with thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion has been associated with many positive outcomes including happiness, optimism, social connectedness, and life satisfaction.1
In a 2018 study on college student, body dissatisfaction was improved after just three minutes of a writing exercise. 1 The instructions for the self-compassion group were as follows: “For the next 3 minutes write a paragraph to yourself (as if you are addressing yourself) expressing kindness, compassion, and understanding towards yourself regarding your weight, appearance and body shape.”
In comparison to the study group that did a self-esteem exercise and an academic writing exercise, the self-compassion group reported the least body dissatisfaction. The self-compassion group also reported the highest self-improvement motivation of the three study groups. There are people that avoid self-compassion fearing it will turn them lazy and unkept. In this study, students expressing self-compassion were more willing to take care of themselves than those that had an academic writing task or a self-esteem task.
So if you’re feeling uncomfortable, distressed that you can’t exercise or unhappy with how your body has changed, please invest three minutes in this science-back method to improve body satisfaction. You might even identify a small way that you can take care of yourself that helps lift your mood too.
- Moffit RL; Neumann DL, Williamson SP. Comparing the efficacy of a brief self-esteem and self-compassion intervention for state body dissatisfaction and self-improvement motivation. Body Image 2018(27):67-76