You may have slipped into a long-held pattern of self-criticism. You may be your own worst enemy. The self talk you have with yourself is harsh and judgemental. What is the solution? Stop being so critical to yourself and change tact. Be kind and compassionate. Cultivating self-compassion is essential to your happiness and success. The insights I will share are drawn from the work of Kristin Neff, a leading expert in self-compassion. Self-compassionate people cope more successfully with stress. They tend to bounce back from failure and are more willing to recognize their mistakes and learn from them.
Watch your language
Think of a pain you are currently going through. If you had a close friend who came to you with the exact same pain you are going through, how would you talk to that friend? Most people would be kind, gentle and understanding to the other person. When it comes to yourself, you probably are much harder. You rarely think about showing yourself kindness. Imagine how that friend would feel if you talked in a judgemental and unsupportive way. You would amplify your friend’s suffering. Similarly, when you beat yourself up, you cause unnecessary suffering to yourself. Self-criticism sabotages yourself and worsens your situation. How to calm your inner critic and replace it with the same kindness, warmth and understanding that you treat others who are struggling? I suggest you carefully choose the language that makes your self-talk. Flip the narrative from “poor me”, “I’m not good enough” to “suffering is part of life, may I be kind to myself in this moment.” Self-kindness is giving yourself support when you most need it.
Everyone is fighting a personal battle you don’t know of
When you experience loss, feel rejected or make mistakes, it is natural to think you are the only one. Most people who struggle also feel isolated. Realizing a sense of common humanity when you are at the bottom of the heap is a key dimension to self-compassion. It’s different from self-acceptance or self-love. Recognize you are certainly not the only one having a tough time. Everyone is fighting a personal battle you don’t know of. It is part of the human experience we share.
Take a step back observing life for what it really is
The last key dimension of self-compassion is mindfulness. Being able to take a step back observing life for what it really is no more or less. Mindfulness gives a better perspective of reality to respond in the most compassionate and effective manner.
Next time you find yourself being self-critical, ask yourself this question. If I had a close friend in the same exact position, would I treat that person similarly? Remember self-compassion is a practice you can tap into whenever you need support.