We should not be so hard on ourselves

Stop it!

We’d never speak to another the same way we speak to ourselves. Heck, I used to be kinder to our dog than I was to myself.

It’s like having a nasty critic living inside our minds, offering rude judgment and criticism at every turn.

I hear people speak the voice of the critic in the way they speak about themselves in conversation all too frequently. We even shame and criticize ourselves for the way we feel.

We’d have no friends left if we spoke to or about others the way we often speak about ourselves.

If we think being hard on ourselves is helpful to create positive change in our lives, we’re wrong.

While having the ability to take stock and determine areas in which we want to change or grow is helpful, it’s important to notice when the voice of the nasty critic enters in.

This critic isn’t helpful in creating lasting change in our lives. We can only bully ourselves into change for so long. The trail of failed resolutions is a result of a self-bullying mentality.

Negative self-talk engages the fight-or-flight response in our brains and bodies. Trying to shame ourselves out of our feelings often makes these feelings stronger; what we resist not only persists, but often grows in size according to psychologist Carl Jung.

Research shows we don’t learn or create lasting change when we’ve bullied or shamed ourselves because it activates the stress response. Our brains aren’t able to create new and lasting habits when the stress response is engaged. This is one reason many New Year resolutions fail.

We learn and change best in an atmosphere of safety and self-compassion.

According to Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, an attitude of self-compassion is an important ingredient to positive change.

Self-compassion isn’t putting blinders on. We won’t turn into unmotivated blobs when we’re compassionate with ourselves. Self-kindness even helps us to see challenging situations in our lives more clearly. Becoming a compassionate coach rather than chastising faultfinder supports successful outcomes.

I once had a large, internal committee of critics. I gave this committee a name I can’t mention here.

If I’d met such people in my life, I’d never hang out with them, yet I used to entertain them for long periods of time. Not only would I invite them in, but often I’d stay up all night listening to them.

It never felt good, but I did it anyway; it was my habit of mind.

Repetitive thoughts are just old, well-practiced neural pathways. They’re like ruts in a well-travelled road. We can get stuck in the ruts that take us to the same old places we’ve always travelled. When we have a habit of thinking negative thoughts about ourselves it becomes the default mode.

We can make new habits of thought. Stopping and noticing what we’re thinking and what we’re saying to ourselves is key.

I’ve long used an exercise that was helpful in changing the inner-critic to a compassionate coach. I call it Becoming Your Own Best-Friend.

• When you become aware of negative self-talk rolling through your brain, stop! Stop and notice how it feels.
• Don’t believe everything you think. You are not your thoughts. Just because you had a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.
• Once you catch yourself being self-abusive, ask yourself what you’d say to your own best-friend in the same circumstance. Would you call them lazy, stupid, fat, or a failure? Would you remind them of every time they’ve failed in the past? I doubt it.
• Instead, offer yourself the same compassion, encouragement, and advice you’d offer someone you care about.

According to psychologist, Elizabeth Scott, positive and motivational self-talk is the greater predictor of success. We do better when we encourage ourselves kindly.

Consider becoming your own best friend, being compassionate toward yourself, wanting the very best for yourself. You know how you’d coach or support your best friend, and then just do the same for yourself.

Research also shows learning to be compassionate with ourselves:

• Reduces the stress response
• Reduces anxiety and depression
• Increases happiness and optimism
• Improves our physical health
• Creates greater resiliency
• Increases our self-esteem
• Supports us in making and sustaining healthy changes
• Increases our tendency to be kinder to others

Consider firing your internal committee of critics and becoming a compassionate coach with yourself. Developing self-compassion engages what science is finding when it comes to creating lasting and positive change in your life.

Self-compassion and kindness are key to positive change.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at corinneacrockett[email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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