Compassionate Accountability

Guest blog from Kristie Santana

This months guest blog is from Kristie Santana who is a life coach and the founder of the National Coach Academy. She is a coaching advocate and has been educating on the topic of coaching for over 15 years.

For any parent, the balancing act of teaching your children boundaries and personal discipline can be a real challenge. How do we help instill work ethic, grit, and a strong moral compass while trying to avoid completely crushing their spirits?

This balancing act can be observed in many areas of our lives. But there is one area that is arguably the most dominant example and simultaneously the most neglected: our internal disciplinary dialogue.

Are we speaking to ourselves in a way we would never dream of speaking to our kids? We want to inspire a better version of ourselves, and require discipline in certain areas to grow to our full potential. On some level, we are eternally parenting ourselves. It is essential to examine if we are being a “good parent” or an “abusive parent” to ourselves.

I think most of us can easily say that a good parent does not check out and let their kids do whatever they want all the time. Ice cream for breakfast and mozzarella cheese sticks with a side of sour straws for dinner would not fly. Letting what seem like relatively harmless unhealthy behaviors become routine sets up our kids for challenges of increasing severity in the future.

How we manage our internal habits is not that different. If we leave them unchecked, they can often take root in a way that causes us more heartache in the long run. But imagine if every time your child requested ice cream for breakfast, you screamed at them. What if you venomously spat out words like, “What is wrong with you? Why are you such an idiot?”

Let’s be very honest. How often do we internally say such things to ourselves as a tool of self-discipline?

When we think of the example with our kids, the negative effects of using techniques like that seem pretty obvious. The negative effects that occur when we “bad parent” our own behavior are just as real.

Kristen Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s department of educational psychology, has been credited with conducting some of the first academic studies into self-compassion. She has illuminated what she describes as the three faces of self-compassion:

  1. Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement — offering understanding and gentleness toward oneself during moments of failure rather than being harshly self-critical.
  2. Common Humanity vs Isolation — misinterpreting one’s experience and behavior as being completely separate and isolated from the big picture of human experience as a whole.
  3. Mindfulness vs Over-Identification — observing unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and patterns as changeable objects, instead of chaining ourselves to them as permanent fixtures of our identity.

Dr. Neff also elaborates that self-compassion is a powerful tool in carrying out self-accountability:

“Self-compassion is an emotionally positive self-attitude that should protect against the negative consequences of self-judgment, isolation, and rumination (such as depression). Because of its non-evaluative and interconnected nature, it should also counter the tendencies towards narcissism, self-centeredness, and downward social comparison that have been associated with attempts to maintain self-esteem.”

  • Self-compassion is not self-pity.
    Harboring patterns of negative self-talk and “woe is me” thinking can be a mutated expression of narcissism. Addressing this pattern equally requires compassion.
  • Self-compassion is not self-indulgence.
    Compassion provides the safety needed to see the self clearly without the fear of condemnation. This security and belief in the potential for good and change is a motivating force to fearlessly address the areas of growth that are needed.
  • Self-compassion is not self-esteem.
    Compassion-rooted self-worth is not dependent on external evaluations.
    Practicing compassion is not a practice of elevating our value in relation to others. For example, compassionate accountability is not reassuring yourself with status statements like, “It’s okay. At least you didn’t mess up as bad as that other person did.”

Compassionate accountability is a commitment to telling yourself the truth in a kind way.

By continually practicing compassionate accountability with ourselves, we increase our potential for being an effective and positive influence on others. It is a sober, joyful, regenerative, and faith-driven act of taking ownership of our lives and the people we would like to be.

More of her writing can be found on her other passion project website — Life Coach Path

Jules has a unique insight and tremendous ability to connect with people inspiring and nurturing them to move in a positive direction.