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Have you ever told yourself you were just going to have one little treat, then ended up throwing out those diet plans because you struggled to stop after that first bite?

Have you ever told yourself you’d only have one drink tonight, then ended up with a horrible hangover the next day from one too many?

Have you ever told yourself you’d only watch one episode of that new show, then ended up glued to the TV for the next five hours?

Have you ever told yourself you were only getting that one item from the store, then ended up with a basket full of stuff you didn’t really need?

Yup. Been there, done that.  Why? Because human emotions can be challenging to master, and we live in a society that promotes over-consumption. We know what’s good for us…yet, for so many, we continue playing out the same old patterns that keep us frustrated and stuck. We choose instant gratification over doing the hard inner work.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for moderation over restriction. Live a little! Enjoy all life has to offer. Bottom line-find a balance that works for you. If you feel you’ve got your balance down, that’s amazing. But I’ve worked with many people who find themselves in a cycle of acting in ways that don’t serve their highest good>then feel guilt and shame about it>engage in same behavior>rinse and repeat again and again.

So what do you do when you find yourself in this shame spiral? Before you go any further, drop the guilt and bring on the gentle. Start by swapping self-criticism for self-compassion. I reference the concept of self-compassion a lot because it has completely changed the way I view myself and work with clients. It really is a game changer. The most important aspect of self-compassion is to understand that it’s not a free pass to say “oh well, I can do whatever I want and rationalize it later”. The rationalizations we use to justify less than stellar living will only get us so far. Most of us recognize that it’s just a little white lie we tell ourselves. Self-compassion is a way to break through the BS and get honest with yourself about what’s upholding your patterns.

We’ve got to get clear about why this is a pattern we want to break. What results do we get that leave us feeling regret? Maybe it’s an emotional tailspin, a financial toll,  a blow to our health, or it costs us stable relationships. Maybe it just keeps us from getting real with ourselves about what parts of us need a little TLC from the heart, rather than a quick fix band aid. Once you’ve identified why this is something out of alignment with who you want to be, who you really are, focus on what you’ll gain rather than lose. What’s the bigger picture result you’re looking for? What may feel difficult at first will be a stepping stone to a healthier, happier self. If we’re over indulging, chances are we’re trying to meet an emotional need. In order to take away one mode of coping, we’ve got to replace it with alternative tools (hint: I shared some great ideas in my last post!). For some of us, it’s a matter of struggling to uphold our boundaries amongst peer pressure. If that’s the case, it may be worth considering if you’re spending time with people who really value you.

Self-compassion reminds us that we’re all just doing the best we can in any given moment. It reminds us of our inherent goodness and wholeness, just waiting to be reconnected to. It reminds us we’re not always going to walk the perfect path. Thank goodness we can recommit to elevating our way of being any time. We can always come back home to ourselves and start again. As we develop awareness, we start to slow down. What was once a knee-jerk reaction or impulse, is now met with questions like, “why am I drawn to this right now? What need am I trying to get met?” Listen to whatever comes up from within. That is where your answers for next steps lie.

Know that with willingness, an open heart and mind, and commitment to digging a little deeper, anything is possible. Those old patterns will become chains you break free from. Just remember, compassion over criticism will take you to exactly where you want to go.