A lot of us a pretty hard on ourselves at times.
We may say things like
I’m not good enough
Why am I such a …?
And it can get a lot worse than that! Criticise
I get that a little bit of self-criticism can be helpful if we want to improve aspects of our lives and we can use this harshness as a tool for motivation.
However a lot of us take this to an extreme level and we can become pretty brutal to ourselves.
This tendency to self-criticism is something which may have been reinforced by previous experiences. Be that schooling, parents and parts of our society in general.
However there’s growing research using this punitive motivating stick is not the only way and that self-compassion is both helpful and effective in increasing performance. On top of this, I have no doubt that it can be helpful in managing our own stress levels.
If you’re up for a little test as an example, try this:
Think of a time when someone spoke to you unkindly.
Notice what happens to your body. Does it tighten up? Do you have a feeling of shame or anger?
Now detach from that memory and notice what’s going on around you right now.
Next, think of time when someone spoke kindly or were caring to you.
What do you notice happening in your body now? Perhaps there is a sense of warmth or even joy.
Hopefully you can experience from that quick experiment that our bodies and minds react differently depending on what we’re thinking about.
Now, imagine that you’re the one speaking unkindly to yourself day in, day out.
Perhaps that’s easy to do, because you already are.
It’s not hard to see how this negative internal dialogue may be contributing to stress and negative feelings in your life.
We can’t do too much about how other people decide to treat us but we can do something about how we treat ourselves.
For this reason, one of the most important tools in developing self-compassion is self-awareness.
Particularly an awareness of how we speak to ourselves. This can include the words we use and the tone of voice.
By becoming more aware of our inner dialogue and processes, we can recognise when we are tapping into a punitive inner coach. If we can build an awareness of this, we have an option to detach from it and perhaps introduce a more compassionate inner coach that might be more effective and almost certainly reduces your internal stress levels.
This doesn’t require anything more than a commitment to noticing when the inner critic kicks up and attempt to drop it when it does.
This is simple but not easy. However it does get easier with practice.
I hope the practice helps.
If you want to learn more about self-compassion and it’s effectiveness, there’s a helpful paper here.