Self-kindness vs. Self-indulgence

April 15, 2011 at 5:47 am Leave a comment

There are basically two approaches in life: we are born in sin and must be discliplined into being good, or we are born good but sometimes lose our way. I am fairly familiar with the first approach but the second one I haven’t much explored. Questions that arise include: if we are born good, what causes us to go in the wrong direction? And how do we fix things when we do go awry? I know a lot about self-punishment but not so much about self-kindness. To me the latter evokes self-indulgence, which I abhor in myself and others. But since self-punishment hasn’t exactly worked for me up to now, it’s time to try something new. So what would self-kindness look like? You make a mistake and then you have a choice: you can beat yourself up, practicing a kind of aversion therapy on yourself or…

Or you can look at the circumstances and decision-making that led to the mistake and plan to do better next time. It’s a question of framing, really. And of confidence. It’s the difference between believing that you are a bad person for having made that mistake, and believing that you did something bad. Doing something bad doesn’t make you bad. Doing something wrong can be fixed. You can stop doing it. You can try something else. There’s a way out. But when you think of yourself as bad, well, that feels somehow more severe, more permanent. What you’re doing in that case is making a character judgment. It’s harder to change one’s personality than it is to change one’s actions.

So next time you’re faced with a mistake, don’t beat yourself up for being such a crappy person. Acknowledge that you did something less than stellar and look at the circumstances that contributed to you choosing that action. Now that you’ve seen the result, you’ll better know what to look for when faced with a similar situation in the future.

Well, it’s worth a try anyway.


Entry filed under: Mental Health. Tags: , .

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