It’s human nature to have negative, unpleasant, or self-critical thoughts and doubts sometimes.
But repeatedly nurturing these types of thoughts using harsh and demeaning language toward yourself leads you away from your best life (internal or external language).
Your inner critic can prevent you from sharing in life’s opportunities, rich meaningful social connections and behaviors that support your overall well-being and happiness.
Through the practice of self compassion, you can move forward toward your best life!
STUCK IN THE MUCK OF THE MIND
I remember trying my first yoga class in the 80’s. (This was long before fancy yoga mats and clothes existed). I had no idea what to wear, who I would meet, or what was even involved in doing yoga. I just heard about the benefits and wanted to try it.
Well, all I remember is it was an extremely awkward experience.
I felt like I was in a distorted game of Twister where all the other players were Gumby. I kept losing my balance and lagging behind. Occasionally, I’d make an audible bleating noise like a crying sheep. Apparently, that’s the sound you make when you contort your anatomy in a way it’s not willing to go.
Throughout the entire class I remember saying to myself, “You’ll never be good at this.” “You’ll never be able to do these poses.” “You look soooo dumb.” “You don’t have the right clothes.” “You should just walk out now.” “This was a stupid idea.”
The self-criticism and put down language in my head went on and on and on.
Even when the instructor praised my efforts, I refused to accept his words of support. I just apologized for what I deemed as my pathetic performance.
By the end of the class, I had convinced myself I was horrible at yoga and never went back.
When I look back on that moment, I would never have ever said those horrible, unkind things to another person in the same situation. Yet I effortlessly and repeatedly said them to myself.
The thoughts weren’t true. But, they kept me feeling bad about myself. Even months later.
And I missed out on so many opportunities by dropping out of that class.
Opportunities to meet new people, reduce my stress, improve my sleep, and strengthen my body.
It was years before I tried yoga again.
It’s lessons like these that helped me change how I treat myself now.
It took time and practice. Just like learning any new skill.
But through practicing self-compassion, I moved toward my values and toward successfully completing goals in life.
One of which was starting and completing college degrees in my 40’s!
HOW THE INNER CRITIC KEEPS YOU FROM YOUR BEST LIFE
Repeated patterns of self-critical and distorted thoughts raise your cortisol levels.
Wrestling with these negative thoughts zaps your energy and strengthens their grip on your life.
They evoke feelings of fear, anxiety, shame, frustration and resentment to name a few.
The inner critic’s harsh language toward yourself gets reinforced over time. It begins to permeate other areas of your life. Like your work life, social situations and family. And most importantly, places and activities that support your health and wellness goals.
The inner critic has predetermined you’ll fail, that you can’t do it, or that something bad will happen. And tells you, “So, don’t even try.”
You begin to move away from those things you value and that are attached to your goals.
You stay stuck!
PRACTICING SELF COMPASSION
If you engage in self-criticism and harsh judgmental language toward yourself, try replacing your thoughts and words with kindness and statements of love and self-compassion. Just as you would toward others.
Self-compassion can release the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin stimulates the hormones dopamine and serotonin in your body, which has a calming effect and produces an overall good feeling.
To get your hit of oxytocin give yourself some love.
At first this will be challenging. Your inner critic will show up to scare off compassion.
Don’t run from your inner critic. Acknowledge her presence.
Tell her that you appreciate her showing up for the ride, but that you don’t need her right now. Tell her she can sit in the passenger seat and come along for the ride. But she’s not allowed to drive. You’re not making any U-turns or going down dark roads.
Rephrase your negative and critical thoughts. Instead of saying “I can’t do this.” “I’m, so dumb.” Say to yourself, “I’m having thoughts about being dumb and not being able to do this.”
This rephrasing shifts your perspective. It puts the emphasis on the fact that these are just thoughts and not facts.
It creates some space for you to breath and releases the grip of the inner critic. It allows you to move toward your best life.
This takes practice. But over time, these statements of kindness and compassion will override the inner critic and diminish her power.
COMPASSION DISCOVERY EXERCISE
Consider a time when someone close to you was struggling or feeling really bad toward themselves. What words and statements did you share to help encourage them? What tone of voice did you use to present those words and statements to them? How did you show warmth and compassion?
Now consider a time when you were struggling or feeling really bad toward yourself. What words and statements did you share to help encourage yourself? What tone of voice did you use to present those words and statements to yourself? How did you show warmth and compassion?
What did you discover about your compassion toward others as compared to your compassion toward yourself? Was there a difference?
If yes, what factors contributed to you treating yourself differently than another person?
Are you using harsh judgments and demeaning language as a form of motivation?
If so, what kinder, more helpful language could you use to motivate yourself to engage in more productive actions?
If you reached out to yourself with the same compassion as you would a struggling friend, what things might change? What language and feelings toward yourself would change?
What supportive message can you offer yourself that aligns with your underlying values and goals for your well-being and happiness?
Self Compassion Example: I can see that you’re struggling. I know that you’re trying to work through it, but you’re worried that you’ll fail. It’s okay to feel worried when you try something new. Worry is just a feeling. It can’t hurt you. You can still do this while you feel a little worried. I’m here for you. I care about you and I’ll help you succeed at this. You’ve used your perseverance and courage to get through things more challenging than this in the past. Your dedication to your health is what you value. You’ve got this! I can’t wait to celebrate with you!
Life is too short to spend it cowering in the shadow of your inner-critic.
Every time you catch yourself being judgmental, harsh and using demeaning language toward yourself notice the pain of your self-judgment.
Offer yourself compassion and love instead.
Reframe your inner dialogue to be encouraging, supportive and understanding.
Encouragement and motivation through love are a powerful thing!
Over to you…
What’s holding you back from self-compassion?
How can you start practicing today?
Wishing you Wellward! Linda