Paying the Speeding Ticket: Why Self-Compassion Matters in Relationships

a speeding ticket from the state of Tennessee, tacked up on a black background with a blue push pin
Image by Micah Drushal / CC BY

Self-compassion, the ability of a person to forgive themselves when they make mistakes, is more important than self-esteem when it comes to success in life and overall emotional well-being.

Self-compassion is not only important for our individual happiness. It’s also vital in relationships.

The reason for this: People who are low in self-compassion? Often have trouble admitting to their mistakes.

This is especially true when they also have high self-esteem (helloooo narcissists).

We Fight Harder When We View Mistakes as Life or Death

Think about it in legal terms.

The size of the fight we put up hinges greatly on what will happen if we don’t defend ourselves.

Let’s say we view something like a speeding ticket. We’re likely to pay a small fine. A lot of us? If we can afford the ticket, we just pay it off. Get it out of our lives.

But if we’re charged with a capital crime? And we’re facing a life sentence or the death penalty? If we have the resources to fight that, you bet your life (literally) that we will.

When the consequences of being convicted are more severe, the defense makes more of an effort to avoid the charge.

And When We’re Most Defensive? We’ll Fight Dirty

If we’re low in self-compassion, our mistakes can feel more like a capital crime than a speeding ticket.

And when making mistakes is so unacceptable to us that they feel like a capital charge? Our inner lawyer will come in and fight the good fight.

Deny. Rationalize. Do anything but confess and take responsibility. (Without an exhausting plea bargain process anyway.)

Those lowest in self-compassion may even launch a counterattack — not only refusing to make the mistakes that they made but also putting their partner on trial. Flipping everything around deftly so that there’s a new defendant.

To Be Kind and Forgiving to Our Partners, We Must Start with Ourselves

The sad thing is? No one is on trial. Especially not in a relationship. We’re all imperfect. Mistakes are gonna happen. The only perfect person is one you don’t know well enough yet (more on the dangers of pedestaling in a later post).

Being kind and forgiving to our partners starts with us.

 

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