I’m The Worst At Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is hard for me.

Once or twice a month I lay in bed hours after I had hoped to fall asleep, replaying a moment from the day I desperately wanted to go differently.

I am brutal on myself.

It is in these early hours of the morning that the voices of self-doubt creep in, shouting that I will never amount to anything if I have another experience like the one I had earlier in the day.

When I get into that headspace, I simply can’t shut my brain off and I’ll often go watch TV on the couch to escape before eventually drifting off to sleep.

I think one big reason I have difficulty practicing self-compassion in those moments is because I am a creative.

Creatives are highly sensitive and introspective individuals and we approach our work and experiences with a deep level of empathy and self-awareness. This self-awareness also extends to our personal experiences and emotions, which should lead to a greater capacity for self-compassion.

It makes me wonder why so many creatives I know struggle with self-compassion like I do?

I have a few ideas and I wonder if other creatives feel the same.

  1. It’s difficult to separate the things we put out into the world from our sense of self-worth. Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness, understanding, and a non-judgmental attitude, especially during difficult times. That can be difficult when the entire identity of a creative is directly tied to the things we are putting out into the world.

  2. Creatives often put a great deal of pressure on themselves to produce high-quality work for financial stability. One of the downsides of a creator economy is that creatives are forced to put things out into the world for monetary purposes. When the pressure to produce high-quality work becomes directly tied to financial stability, it changes the dynamic of why we are creating in the first place. Ultimately, it places unnecessary pressure on us to be perfect, especially when things don’t go as planned.

  3. Evaluating the things we create is often subjective, making it difficult to identify a true north.
    Anything we create is subject to evaluation from individuals in the outside world. It can be maddening when no two opinions are the same. In addition, the unrelenting process of putting new things out into the world without fear of what others will think can often be confusing and mentally draining.

  4. The pressure of having to consistently create at a high level often brings creative blocks. There is not much worse than hitting a creative block days before a big deadline. The pressure of creation and the subsequent creative block often throws creatives into a self-doubt spiral.

  5. Creatives are often not in control of their future. I spend the most time with self-doubt when I am fretting about things that are beyond my control. Unfortunately, creatives are often in that place because we have no idea whether the things we have created will lead to the next steps along the life and career path we would like to pursue. Creating things out of blind faith can be maddening.

Any one of the above scenarios can bring in overwhelming thoughts of self-doubt at the expense of self-compassion. In light of this, creatives must have a way to practice self-compassion on a daily basis.

Cultivating self-compassion can help creatives to be kinder to themselves during challenging times, allowing them to approach their work and their experiences with greater resilience and ease. On top of that, research has shown that self-compassion can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being, helping individuals to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression.

For creatives, who may face particularly intense creative blocks or feelings of self-doubt, self-compassion can be an important tool for maintaining our emotional and mental stability.

While I am no expert, there are many great resources out there to help you practice self-compassion. One resource I love is a newsletter called Nesslabs, which provides weekly mindful productivity strategies that I find particularly useful to my own self-compassion practice.

In my own pursuit of self-compassion, I have found running to be one of the most effective ways to clear my head and channel positive thoughts. I often run in solitude and it has always been a way for me to push out any anxiety or self-doubt in exchange for self-compassion. Running may not help me with those thoughts when I’m staring at the ceiling at 2 am, but it does help me be in a better headspace overall.

What strategies have you adopted to practice self-compassion?

(Photo Credit: Keegan Houser)

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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