When thinking about writing this blog I noticed my thoughts straying towards berating myself (“it doesn’t take long, you should be keeping on top of it”). This way of thinking is, of course, deeply unhelpful – berating myself would simply make me feel worse, making it less likely I would settle down to write!
Instead I remembered self-compassion, an approach that considers the value of being kind to yourself and the benefits this can offer to emotional well-being and everyday life. So, I told myself “my life is busy, it can feel hard to find five minutes, maybe keep it short”. This acknowledged the problem, but offered kindness, not anger in response, creating altogether a different outcome (you are after all reading a blog!).
Self-compassion can take a lot of practice. If you think about it we spend much of our early lives being told not to do things (“no, don’t touch that”) or to do things better (“you could get an “A” next time if you do XYZ), so sometimes criticising ourselves can be like second nature.
This is an exercise I sometimes use to introduce self-compassion to others or to remind myself to use it!
Think back to a time recently when you were critical of yourself. Perhaps a difficult situation at work or making a mistake. As you remember, notice the kind of thoughts you are having – the tone of them and how it makes you feel.
Now imagine that a friend is talking to you about the difficult situation (only this time you were not involved). What response might you give a friend and how you would say it?
Is there a difference in how you talk to yourself verses someone else and if so, which of these approaches is likely to lead to a positive outcome?
Often noticing how unduly (and unhelpfully) critical we are of ourselves creates opportunity to cultivate a compassionate voice, one that challenges criticism and offers support and comfort – just imagine how different life could be if we all challenged the inner critic!