Love yourself no matter what!
As you scroll through social media, it can be overwhelming to see all the self-help tips. Beautifully-illustrated graphics tell us that we need to be kind and love ourselves no matter what… which sounds great. But when your inner critic starts telling you all of the ways you suck, how do you actually do that?
For years, I taught people the WHAT of self-love – the importance of quieting our inner critics (I call it a Monger) and why we need to be kinder to ourselves. People would leave my sessions saying, “Yes, I totally agree!!” Heads would nod while acknowledging the gravity of self-love and laughter would occur as I shared the crazy ways we belittle ourselves.
Then, when offered a spread of snacks, cookies, chips during the break, the same people who moments ago said, “Yes, love yourself! Self-kindness is the key!” also said, “I can’t eat this. I’m already so fat” or “How dare they put out cookies? Don’t they know I have no self-control!?”
The same people professing love and kindness continued to engage in shame and belittling even if they rationally understood that there was another way.
Do We Need Our Inner Critics?
For too long, we’ve swallowed the lie that if we aren’t hard on ourselves, we won’t get anything done regardless of how many times we’re reminded to be kind to ourselves. Said a different way, we believe we NEED the Monger to become the thin, perfect, inspired person we are destined to be.
It’s this secret belief that ultimately prevents us from not only loving ourselves but also from achieving our goals.
Our Monger convinces us the only way to achieve those goals is through grit, struggle, self-shaming, and belittling because we are lazy and uninspired. She lies to us that, left to our own devices, we will sit on the couch eating nothing but Chunky Monkey and watching Sex in the City episodes on repeat.
While you may have had days like that, what I know from personal experience and with clients in my private practice is that it’s not true over an extended period of time.
Try it. Dedicate a weekend to doing nothing but eating ice cream and binge-watching your favorite show. At some point, you’ll start to crave something on the healthier spectrum of the food pyramid and want to take a walk around the block.
We aren’t lazy, unmotivated people by default. Stop believing the lie that you need to beat yourself up to accomplish anything. You need to practice self-kindness.
Here’s the truth. Only through being kind to yourself will you be able to achieve your goals and enjoy the process of getting there.
What Happens When We Shame Ourselves?
Here’s an example of it looks like to try and achieve your goals through self-shaming:
Let’s say you want to write more for pleasure. In high school and college, you wrote all the time, but now you don’t have the time. You decide you’ll wake up early to do some writing before the rest of the house wakes up. When your alarm goes off, you roll over and immediately want to fall back asleep. Your Monger immediately starts in, “Come on lazy, you said you were going to write today. You’ve been saying that for the past year. Get your butt out of bed.”
As you make your way downstairs, your Monger is still at it. “So, what are you going to write about?! It’s not like you have any original ideas to share. It’s all been said, hasn’t it?!” You turn on the computer and sip your coffee hoping for something brilliant to come out but instead there’s just more harassment from your Monger. Not a very productive morning of writing, huh?
The lie is being exposed. The truth is because your Monger was hammering you so hard you couldn’t be inspired. But your Monger, like any abusive relationship, will continue gaslighting you by insisting that it is YOUR fault you didn’t write. It isn’t that you had no room for inspiration with all that hate spinning in your head; it’s that YOU are a lazy, uninspired loser.
What Does Self-Kindness Look Like?
So, what would it be like if you applied self-kindness to the same scenario?
When your alarm goes off, you roll over and immediately want to fall back asleep. But your Monger immediately starts in, “Come on lazy, you said you were going to write today. You’ve been saying that for the past year. Get your butt out of bed.”
“Ok,” you say to yourself, “we’re going to try it differently today. I know you have your doubts, but I am going to try to do this without you for now.”
As you make your way downstairs, your Monger is still at it. “So, what are you going to write about?! It’s not like you have any original ideas to share. It’s all been said, hasn’t it?!”
You respond, “Today I am just going to write whatever I’m feeling. That’s what I did in high school and college. I gave myself permission to write whatever I was feeling because I still valued what I was feeling.”
As you sip your coffee and stretch your body, you set the timer for 10 minutes. Today is all about getting in the habit of writing. You know you aren’t going to write the great American novel out of the gate.
You challenge yourself to turn on the computer and immediately start writing, whatever comes out of you, no judgment and no stopping. Just 10 minutes of writing. Once the timer stops, you congratulate yourself. You did it. You woke up and wrote. You kept a commitment to yourself! Nicely done!
Yes, your Monger has more commentary about how it sounds and what you could do differently, but you know you don’t have to listen to her. You KNOW you took one baby step towards writing, and you feel great.
When you’re mired in self-criticism, self-kindness can feel impossible if you don’t know where to start. When I work with my clients, I give them three steps that I designate with the acronym A.S.K.
A. Acknowledge what you are feeling – Scared, doubtful, unsure
S. Slow down and get into your body – Sip your coffee and stretch your body
K. Kindly pull back and see the big picture – “I am not going to write the great American novel today. Let’s start by building the practice of writing.”
When you notice the voice of your Monger taking over, stop yourself and practice A.S.K. You can stop the self-hate, start being kind to yourself, AND move closer to your goals.