Balancing Self Discipline and Self Compassion

Balancing Self Discipline and Self Compassion

1200 675 Arielle Davis

Self discipline and self compassion are essential ingredients for success and happiness. We are all capable of being disciplined and compassionate with ourselves, but life also requires us to work at it. But what do we need more of, self discipline or self compassion?

Self Compassion vs Self Discipline

It is easy to accept that the balance between self compassion and self discipline is something we should all strive for, though it can be challenging to maintain in daily life. Some days our motivation is low, and our inner critic is loud. The voice inside tells us that we’re falling behind our peers even though we’re working hard, or it tells us that we deserve to binge-watch Netflix even though we haven’t worked toward our goals. In moments like these, balancing working hard with rest can feel impossible. However, we must learn to balance our need for self discipline with our need for self compassion if we want to live fulfilling lives.

Self compassion is an essential ingredient for healthy self esteem. It’s the ability to recognize our emotions and accept them without judgment. How many times have you told yourself that you hate it when you cry, even though crying means that something has caused you significant hurt? Judging yourself for the emotions you feel or pushing them down or away will only prolong your suffering in the long-run. Your raw feelings deserve tender care, the same care you might offer to a friend who is having a hard time. We must develop greater self compassion toward ourselves in challenging moments. Greater self compassion means having empathy for ourselves when we make mistakes or experience strong emotions. It’s about trading in negative self talk for gentle and encouraging words.

In contrast, self discipline involves setting goals for yourself and working hard toward them, even when you don’t feel like it or want to stop. It’s about putting in that extra hour to complete a task, pushing through that last minute on the treadmill, or saying no to that drink or joint because you know it’s no longer good for you. Self discipline is what pushes us toward our best selves. It’s where we excavate the strength that lives deep inside us, and harness its power to create the life we want to live.

The benefits are obvious: with greater self discipline comes greater control over our lives; with greater self compassion comes greater peace within ourselves even when things aren’t going according to plan.

Can you have too much self compassion or self discipline?

It’s essential to consider your limitations and abilities, but generally speaking, you are not likely to have too much self compassion. Most of us are harder on ourselves than we should be. However, if we’re not careful, our self compassion can also become excessive – to the point of being unhealthy for us and those around us. We may neglect our responsibilities and obligations in favor of taking it easy. We may not take accountability for the areas where self development is needed. Instead of working to improve, we simply give in to procrastination. We coddle ourselves into complacency that, in turn, stops us from reaching our greatest potential.

Unbalanced behaviors can demonstrate our need for self discipline. Without self discipline, there is little opportunity for growth or change in life. Self discipline is the process of developing our willpower so we can accomplish what needs to be done. It can also provide us with a sense of purpose and direction in our lives. When we have self discipline, we make better decisions, improve our relationships, and even increase our income. Self discipline is a skill that can be learned and honed with practice.

That being said, too much self discipline can lead to negative traits, such as perfectionism and control issues, that impede healthy personal growth. We can push ourselves too hard and refuse to let up, even when our body is telling us it has had enough. We strive for more even after meeting a goal because we immediately set a new standard to judge ourselves against. We push ourselves to the point of burnout and then shame ourselves when our stress levels become too great. We see our fatigue and need for rest as a personal failure instead of allowing it to demonstrate our humanity.

So, we must learn to balance self compassion and self discipline as we move through our lives.

How do you find YOUR balance between self compassion and self discipline?

Remember that finding the right balance between self discipline and self compassion is personal; one size does not fit all. As you consider how much of each you need, ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I tend to overwork myself or let myself off the hook?
  • What symptoms do I experience when I am out of balance?
  • What is causing me to push myself too much or too little?
  • How can I support my need to rest or push myself harder?
  • What have I tried in the past to bring balance to myself, and why didn’t it work?

As you answer these questions, you will get an idea for which skill you need more of. If you find that you tend to overwork yourself, and the symptoms that come from that include irritability and fatigue, you can work to become more self compassionate and allow yourself the space to rest and play. Alternatively, if you find that you tend to go easy on yourself, and the symptoms of that are not meeting your goals, then you can work to create routines, habits, and accountability systems that support your development of self discipline.

Self compassion and self discipline are key ingredients for happiness and success. It’s hard to be happy when constantly judging yourself, but it’s also hard to live a fulfilling life without discipline. For most people, it takes time and effort to balance these skills. But by building the habit of checking in with yourself and asking questions, you can learn when you’re imbalanced and work to restore it.

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