Forgive Yourself: The Importance of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Adaptability, Self-Empathy, and Self-Compassion

By Renée Adams

January 16, 2021

Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence, New Year's Resolutions, self-empathy

It’s January 15th, which means New Year’s resolutions are underway. Some of us are getting more sleep, working on our Emotional Intelligence (EI), or succeeding at whatever our resolutions are. On the other hand, many of us are struggling to follow through on our resolutions. EI equips us with the ability to adapt positively amidst failures and difficulties.

EI builds resilience to push through failures and difficulties and encompasses awareness of habits, goals, and values and it’s up to us to figure out how we align ourselves with those things. In order to see what can happen when we practice self-empathy instead of self-criticism, let’s take a look at Judy, who resolves to quit smoking.

Judy smokes a pack a day. Ever since high school, she’s kept up with this habit, especially during times of duress. This year, with encouragement and support from her significant other, she resolves to quit smoking. She throws away all her cigarettes and notices a positive change immediately. Her respiration feels better than ever and she is saving plenty of money. But after a few days, her withdrawal symptoms become torturous.

She can’t sleep, can’t think, can’t eat, and it isn’t getting better. She finds herself buying a pack of cigarettes one day and gets upset with herself. Judy uses negative, self-shaming language in front of her children. Her children are scared and upset when they see her acting this way. She doesn’t like the person she has become and she isn’t making any progress on her resolution so she throws out the whole idea.

Self care, love, acceptance concept. Woman with closed eyes sitting on knees, embracing yourself. Mental health issue, feeling of frustrated, anxiety. Universe inside. Helping hand

Judy’s intention was noble. She wanted to improve her health not just for herself, but for her whole family’s benefit. She imagined a world where she quit smoking and it filled her with joy and hope. Instead of it going this way, Judy quit less than two weeks into the year. Where did she go wrong and what could she have done differently?

Judy lacked four critical EI skills: self-awareness, self-management, adaptability, and self-empathy. Self-awareness promotes increased levels of body awareness, which Judy needed to identify her increasingly-severe withdrawal symptoms. Self-management would have helped her go from identifying these symptoms to putting a plan of action in place. This plan would no doubt include self-care and support in order to manage the extremely difficult, but temporary phase of her journey.  

And if in spite of those high EI skills, Judy experienced failure rather than success, she would have been able to implement self-empathy and thereby adapt to the set back. After all, there is more than one strategy to quit smoking.

What’s not obvious from the example is on top of not following through with her resolution, Judy could be causing serious emotional damage to her children.

We want our children to practice self-empathy and self-compassion, and we need to role-model positive self-talk and self-forgiveness. Empathy and compassion towards others starts with our ability for self-empathy and self-kindness. When we beat ourselves up over mistakes we’ve made and give up on our goals, we also hurt others who want to see us succeed. And asking for the support from those who care about us and love us can prove to be very useful. 

So what are you all resolving to change this year? Are you trying to read more books, increase financial security, or develop better wellness practices? I can’t encourage you enough to try to better yourself this year, but I can’t promise it will be easy. If you find yourself faltering on your resolution, check out this guide from ahaparenting.com instead of criticizing yourself. It’s all about setting and achieving realistic, smaller goals in order to accomplish the bigger ones. I have the saying from a fortune cookie taped on my monitor that says, “Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” Don’t forget to give yourself credit for your successes and forgive yourself for your failures. 

With whatever it is you’re working on, please share in the comments how EI is playing a role in your journey.

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