Marla Lowder

Marla Lowder

We’ve all heard the saying, “We are our own worst critic.” In a world where so much is expected of us, we tend to get wrapped up in doing our best, and when we fail we don’t cut ourselves any slack. We are the hardest on ourselves.

Let’s look at it this way. If a friend of yours was having a hard time, how compassionate would you be toward them? More than likely, you would be there for them, listen and give them advice. So why, when you’re having a bad day, can’t you do the same for yourself? It’s okay to give yourself a little help and to take time for you and say, “Hey I messed up and that’s okay.”

It is instilled in a lot of us to be better than someone else whether it is through sports or competitions of some sort. If we don’t, we don’t feel good about ourselves. So, self-esteem becomes our self-confidence, and we have to always be the best.

However, there is a difference between self-confidence and self-compassion. Self-confidence helps you get through the big thing and self-compassion is what helps you recover after you do something wrong.

I would like you to stop and think about the five steps to develop self-compassion that Nancy Schatz Alton writes about in her article in Your Teen magazine, “Benefits of Self-Compassion: When Teens Are Too Hard on Themselves.” There are really six listed. This article is based on the Making Friends with Yourself: A Mindful Self-Compassion Program for Teens and Young Adults, an eight-week program designed to develop self-compassion.

1. Clarify what it is. Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kind of kindness and care that you would treat a good friend who is having a hard time.

2. Practice mindfulness. Ask yourself how you feel after something bad happened, at work or driving, etc.

3. Understand that your emotions are temporary. We can sometimes blow things out of proportion as our emotions take over. Teens are really good at this with the doom and gloom. Remember, mindfulness is how you feel right now and feelings are not long-term and will pass.

4. Recognize and accept that you are not alone. You are not alone in this. You are not the first one this has happened to and you will not be the last. You are unique, but others have experienced this too.

5. Practice self-kindness. When things go wrong and you are feeling bad, you need to remember to be nice to yourself. You have to feel good about yourself as sometimes you are the only one who can or will. It goes back to taking care of yourself.

6. Model self-compassion for your teen. We need to model this for your youth and show them that we can make mistakes and it is okay. Instead of saying, “I have to work harder at it,” it’s okay to say, “I did the best I could and I would have liked to do better.” Recognize that you can fail but it is not the end.

I encourage you to take care of yourself and have self-compassion and to model this for today’s youth when self-esteem can affect them. Research shows that teaching youth things like this can help them get through those difficult times. We all need to realize we are not perfect and we don’t need to beat everyone all the time and it is okay to mess up. We recognize it and grow from it and it is not the end of the world. There is always something new to move onto.

4-H is a youth organization for youth K-12 that helps youth learn about certain items of interest to them, but also teaches them life skills. 4-H has a club structure with leaders who are adult volunteers with current background checks. To learn more about the local program, contact Marla Lowder, Tanana District 4-H agent, at 474-2427. You can also check out our web page at 4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.