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Why self-compassion is vital

by Sarah McMurray Rejecting Perfectionism Steps for Better Finances

So many of us are experts at berating ourselves for what we've done (or haven't done) with our money. Whenever we face up to the negative consequences of our actions, most of us slip into self-criticism and really give ourselves a good telling off. “What was I thinking? WHY am I so weak? I KNEW it was a bad idea! See what I’ve done? Now there’s no money left. Idiot!”

We seem to have picked up the idea that:

  • it’s possible to be perfect, if we just try harder
  • the best way to motivate ourselves to try harder is to self-criticise and make ourselves feel guilty.

But what I see as a Financial Recovery money coach is that this self-criticism and guilt just adds to the problem. It makes us feel bad. And what do we all do when we feel bad? We go to what makes us feel good, even if we know the good feeling will only be temporary; even though we know it’s a bad idea, even as we hate ourselves for being “weak.”

The way out of this downward spiral is self-compassion. Science shows us this: a study on whether self compassion made dieters eat less or more reported that participants who were told, “Everyone indulges sometimes. Don’t be too hard on yourself” ate less of the candy that was on offer. This makes so much sense to me. By accepting ourselves, imperfections and all, we practice self-compassion, remove some of the guilt and stress we experience, and have less need to “make” ourselves feel good. So it's not even a struggle to resist the things that we know will have a negative consequence - we don't need the instant "hit" they give us.

Figuring out how to do better with your money is not about reaching “perfection.” No one is ever going to have a month where everything goes exactly as planned. That’s why the MoneyMinder Online software has an “Adjustments” column. Self-compassion is built in.

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