Do you ever find yourself being self-critical? What type of language do you use with yourself when you notice that you have made a mistake or notice a flaw – do you insult yourself, or do you take a more kind and understanding tone?
So many of us would say that we would tend to beat ourselves up (myself included) more so than using an understanding tone with ourselves and saying, “It’s okay, mistakes happen, you are human after all.” Our society has conditioned us to believe that we should be resistant to self-compassion and avoid it at all costs because isn’t it just a form of self-pity? Isn’t it just a dressed-up way to say that we are giving ourselves an easy pass? Well, the answer is no.
Self-compassion is wanting health and well-being for one-self, leading to proactive behavior to better your situation rather than condemning yourself for your mistakes and failures. Self-compassion allows us to let go of unrealistic expectations for ourselves that makes us strive for perfection and leaves us feeling dissatisfied and defeated.
It is a powerful way to achieve emotional well-being and contentment in our lives. When we give ourselves unconditional kindness, while embracing our true human self, as well as our experience, we dodge patterns of fear, isolation, and negativity. Self-compassion helps us to cultivate happiness. Self-compassion can foster a sense of calmness in a hurricane of self-judgment and shame. We tend to ask ourselves, “are we truly good enough?” In this moment, we can provide ourselves with an answer that acknowledges our humanness and makes us feel safe, accepted, and worthy. When we react to ourselves with kindness we give ourselves a chance to disband the self-criticism and self-judgment that tends to take over our minds.
Do you feel that you lack self-compassion if you do then CHECK-IN with yourself? Are you criticizing yourself? Try to interrupt that self-judgment with some self-kindness, that can look like telling yourself that you are an imperfect human functioning in a society that is set up to emphasize beating yourself up! This is some HARD WORK (I know), try to keep going.
Now, remember this is a practice, which means that it will take some work in order for you to notice a change long-term (do not beat yourself up!!). You can either practice this by doing an internal dialogue with yourself or maybe even write it down, whatever works for YOU. I usually tell my clients that they can even jot it down in their notes on their phone if it’s easier.
Here are some ways that you can practice self-compassion in your day to day and change the narrative (taking away the power from your inner-critic).
Many of us do not even notice when that critical voice is present. Try to tune in and connect with yourself by noticing when you feel bad in whatever you are experiencing at the moment. Note what you say to yourself in that moment, what is the tone of your voice like – is it cold or angry? Does the voice remind you of anyone who was critical of you in the past? By practicing getting to know your inner critic, you become self-aware of how you talk to yourself and when the voice is most likely to appear.
That can look like saying something like, “It’s okay, I know you are worried about me, but you are causing me to feel unnecessary shame about this. Can my inner compassionate self say something now?”
I tell my clients to think about what they would say to their friend who is going through a tough time of self-judgment and criticism. Would you express feelings of care and warmth towards your friend? Maybe, you would say something like “Hey, I know you messed up, people mess up sometimes. I know you were sad, and you thought that taking your frustration out on your mom would make you feel better, but it didn’t. Now, you feel worse and feel like you can’t take any of it back. I want you to feel better, so how about you take a few deep breaths while you go for a walk outside.” Practicing self-kindness will bring on feelings of warmth and compassion.
There are many ways to practice self-compassion. This is just step one on the journey of exploring self-compassion, acceptance, and self-love. This journey is difficult, but remember that the outcome is well worth it. If you feel like you might need some help cultivating self-compassion and tackling your inner critic, we are here for you – contact us if you have any questions or need some help.
Karolina Jevaltaite is an LLPC and LLMFT at Lifeologie Grand Rapids. She specializes in women’s issues and is so passionate to work with women who are struggling with balance, transitions, work stress, self-worth, and relationships. She considers it an honor and a privilege to join with clients while they process trauma, anxiety, or depression, or just navigating tough every-day struggles.