I recently reviewed the book “The Kindness Method” by Shahroo Izadi who explains how harsh we are on ourselves. She says you would not be that fierce with a friend so why are we with ourselves. This morning I came across this story which completely reinforces her theory.
In his book, Feeling Great, Dr. David Burns recounts a conversation with a carpenter, Frank, who was painting his house. One day, upon returning home, Dr. Burns noticed a change in Frank’s usually sunny disposition and asked if he was feeling alright.
“I’m getting old,” he confessed, fighting back tears. “My body won’t be able to keep up the same pace for much longer. I’m worried that I might not have enough money to support my wife and me when I retire. “I’ve never accomplished anything meaningful or significant in my life.”
Feeling bad for Frank, Dr. Burns asked if he could try something helpful called the double standard technique.
Here’s how he describes it,
“When we’re upset or fall short of our goals, we tend to beat up on ourselves with harsh criticisms. But if we were talking to a dear friend with the same exact problem, we’d do so in a far more compassionate, supportive, and realistic way. Once you’re aware of this, you can ask yourself if you’d be willing to talk to yourself in the same compassionate way you’d talk to a dear friend.”
After asking what he would say to a friend in his position, Frank replied that he would remind that friend that he and his wife would have a decent retirement and be fine even if he decided to retire someday. Moreover, he would assure his friend that he had never once received a complaint about his work, not even once, nor had he ever cheated anyone—and that’s as meaningful as it is significant.
Much to Frank’s surprise, his sadness wasn’t caused by his age, nor his fear of financial hardship come retirement, but rather, his negative thoughts.
The story resonates for the times we are in at the moment we all need to be kind to each other and give more feedback than usual. We need to give authentic praise that has true value within it. Say what the person has done well, but substantiate with evidence and make it specific to that individual. Most importantly try giving yourself some value based praise, we all need a boost.
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