How Self-Compassion Can Simmer Down Your Inner Critic And Help You Be Kinder To Yourself

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Self-Compassion is one of those buzz words at the moment that is significantly more difficult to practice and apply than it is to throw around in conversation. Put most simply, self-compassion is the act of extending compassion to oneself. Let’s take that one step further: Compassion is noticing another’s suffering, being moved by it and to feel a strong desire to help the suffering person in some way; to alleviate their pain. If we can feel so moved by another’s pain that we can extend them warmth and care, then why is it so hard to extend this level of kindness to ourselves?

Kristin Neff, a Psychologist who has researched self-compassion extensively, says: “Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself…instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal feelings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

So who needs to practice self-compassion? Well, everyone. BUT…

Here are some signs that you in particular may benefit from starting a practice of self-compassion:

  • You focus significantly more on your shortcomings than you do on your triumphs.

  • When you think about your shortcomings, you tend to feel very alone and separate from others.

  • When you are really struggling, you tend to believe that others have it much easier.

  • You are constantly feeling that you are not enough.

  • You spend a lot of time dwelling on past mistakes.

So what are some simple ways of incorporating a practice of self-compassion?

Be mindful. Until we start to notice our inner critic, we won’t know when we are needing to extend ourselves compassion. We all have aspects of ourselves that we don’t like. Think about some of those imperfections and listen to the words and language that seem to come up for you. Are there words or phrases that seem to play over and over? Does your inner critic’s voice remind you of anyone in your past who may have been critical of you? If we become familiar with our inner critic, we can begin to notice what situations trigger it and start challenging the validity of these negative statements. We can then start to extend warmth and compassion inward, rather than criticism and judgment.

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a loved one. Many of us tend to judge ourselves more harshly than we would judge others. If your loved one was experiencing what you are experiencing, what would you say to them? Would you tell them to get over it? Would you put them down? Would you tell them that they are a useless, incompetent piece of garbage? Probably not. So why do we find ourselves saying these words about ourselves!? Next time you notice yourself being critical or judgmental of yourself, STOP and ask yourself if you would say these things to your loved one.

Write a letter to yourself. When we are in distress, it is much easier to access the negative than it is the positive. Sometimes it is helpful to think about how a loved one would describe us or how they would speak to us. Try writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of a compassionate loved one. What would they write about your perceived flaw or inadequacy? What would they write in order to remind you that no one is perfect and that just like everyone else, you have strengths and weaknesses? Put this letter somewhere accessible so that you can return to it when your inner critic is around.

Set aside a few minutes for self-compassion practice each day. Be intentional! There are many guided meditations on Spotify and Youtube that focus on self-compassion. If these work for you, great! Otherwise, put on some calming music, close your eyes and come up with some statements that express kindness and love to yourself. These can be personalized to your own unique circumstance or feelings of inadequacy. Repeat this mantra silently for 2-5 minutes.

How do you show compassion to yourself? Let us know what works for you and what doesn’t! Be kind to yourself, folks!

If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion, here are a few links:

Kristin Neff’s TedTalk – The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion and Self-Compassion Website

Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Kristin Neff’s Self-Esteem Workbook – The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook