Do You Have an Inner Critic?
“God, you can be so stupid sometimes.”
“Why would he be attracted to YOU?”
“You’re just going to screw this up.”
These are things you would probably never say to another human being unless you’re a real jerk. But how many of us have that inner critic that says these kinds of things all the time.
Most of us treat ourselves far more harshly than we would anyone else. So much of the unhappiness we feel comes from the voices we have inside of ourselves.
The way we talk ourselves plays a vital role in well-being. And every day is a chance for you to develop a loving relationship with yourself. And the best way to do that is to practice self-compassion.
If that concept seems foreign to you or you are even uncomfortable with the idea of showing yourself compassion, then please keep reading to learn some simple but profound ways you can begin to practice self-compassion as a way to connect lovingly with yourself.
1. Notice your Voices
Self-compassion is the pathway to emotional healing. But to begin, you must become more aware of your own emotions, especially as they relate to yourself.In therapy, clients have the opportunity to “hear” themselves talk for much longer than happens in day-to-day life. They are sometimes surprised by the words that come out. Whether in therapy or journaling or another awareness technique, you must become more aware of your automatic thoughts. Our internal monologue runs constantly as the background music for our day. Simply notice what your voices say. You could notate to yourself, “Noticing critical voice here.” At this stage, just noticing is the important skill.
2. Be Gentle, Kind, and Understanding
Self-compassion means being gentle, kind and understanding with yourself; accepting that you are not perfect; and understanding that there is potential for learning and growth in every mistake you make (Neff, 2003). Once you develop awareness, when you note a critical internal comment, offer yourself a bit of acceptance or understanding. You may say something to yourself like, “you did your best.” You are most likely so habituated to criticizing yourself that it will be far too easy for the wrong choice of words to come out. That’s okay. In these moments you certainly don’t want to berate yourself. Just be aware and make a simple, compassionate correction.
3. Think in Terms of Opportunities
Underneath critical voices are often perfectionistic, performance-based, rigid viewpoints. Part of changing the way you talk to yourself is to soften your way of thinking. Instead, view mistakes as a positive thing to be learned from. An example would be, rather than telling yourself, “I’m no good”, ask yourself, “What did I learn?” or even, “This is hard and it may take me time to figure it out.”
You are worthy of love. So, next time you do not rise to the expectations you have for yourself, take a moment to pause and reassess. For some people, showing themselves compassion is incredibly difficult. If you are ready to get help with your own critical voices, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to talk with you about how therapy can help.