Tips for cultivating self-compassion
Have you stopped and listened to the way you talk to yourself recently? If you have, what does your inner voice sound like? Are you kind and gentle with yourself, or are you… a little mean?
For many of us, it’s the latter. We can be incredibly loving and compassionate to our friends and family members but, when it comes to us, we’re our own worst critics – always spotting the mistakes and flaws. Perhaps you can trace the root of this back to your childhood – did you have a particularly cruel authority figure in your life growing up?
Whatever the cause, the effect of this can be damaging to our self-worth and even our mental health. If this is resonating with you, we have a few tips that can help you on your journey to being more compassionate to yourself.
Mindfulness encourages us to live in the present moment. This can be especially helpful if you find it difficult to stop critical thoughts about yourself. Mindfulness meditation asks us to sit back and become the observer of our own thoughts, eventually giving you a little more control.
When we’re overly critical of ourselves, we can quickly lose sight of the good things we have in life. If we’re harsh to ourselves, this can taint the way we experience the world, seeing the negatives and believing we’re not worthy of happiness.
One way to start changing this behaviour is practising gratitude. This means taking some time, every day, to think about what you’re grateful for. Why don’t you start by writing three things you’re grateful for every morning to get your day started on the right foot?
Remember, nobody is perfect
Perfectionism can lead us to believe we’re never good enough. This can be heightened by unrealistic expectations set by the celebrity world and social media. Try to remember that social media is a highlight reel, people showing off their best bits.
Seek out people online or in the media that make you feel uplifted, inspired and capable. Remember, you are in control of who you follow online.
Re-frame your inner critic
When our inner critic says hurtful things to us, i.e. “You’re not smart enough for this job” try not to see it as a bully, but instead someone who is frightened. Often when our inner critic lashes out, it’s because it is scared of something. Once you start to see it as the frightened entity that it is, you can start to feel compassionate towards it.
When this compassion builds, you can start to be compassionate to yourself – embracing self-care and speaking to yourself kindly, as you would a friend.
If the root of your self-criticism is deep, you may well benefit from support. A counsellor can work with you to uncover the cause and help you build new behaviours. One therapy that is particularly helpful in this situation is compassion-focused therapy. Used for those who struggle with self-criticism and shame, this approach can help those struggling with different mental health concerns such as abuse, anger, self-harm and eating disorders.