You are a good person. You’ve done amazing things in your life. You’ve come further than you possibly imagined. I’m proud of you. … these are things I say to other people, but not often myself. And, why not, they are true… aren’t they?
The way we speak to ourselves has a huge impact on our wellbeing. It impacts on so much, from our ability to make decisions to our confidence levels. Your inner critic, that negative voice, can have a damaging effect on your life, from personal relationships to performance in school or work.
So why do we choose to listen to it?
Today I want to invite you to spend some time thinking about that negative voice, and how to use self-compassion to understand, accept and quieten your inner critic.
Let's think about YOUR inner critic. Do you know what it sounds like? Does it have a name? Whatever it looks like they all have similar traits, it undermines you, offering only negativity, often it will encourage you to behave in destructive ways that you know deep down may not be good for you.
It will speak to you in ways like:
‘That was stupid’
‘You don’t deserve this’
‘ That was a dumb idea’
‘You are fat/ ugly/ skinny’....
You get the idea I’m sure.
For some people their inner critic makes them sad, for others it’s angry or ashamed. Or perhaps all three. Do you recognise any of this in yourself?
There are a lot of theories on why we develop this voice. There tends to be agreement that it is formed in childhood and is shaped by early experiences of shame and guilt. This may be from a parent or primary caregiver but it can also be influenced by interjections from peers and siblings.
Can you overcome your inner critic? Yes, your inner critic is not you! Your conscience is separate to that inner critic. By using compassion you can learn to notice the inner critic as a different voice, understand it and through practice learn to quieten it.
Compassion is the feeling you get when you see someone's suffering and you are compelled to help to relieve it. Self-compassion is simply the act of applying that same theory to you. Research has been done to show those with self-compassion have stronger mental wellbeing, show higher levels of contentment and cope better with situations which are stressful.
Kirsten Neff, a Self-Compassion guru says there are three main components to Self-Compassion:
Self-Kindness, being warm to oneself when encountering pain or shortcomings rather than hurting oneself with criticism and negative self views.
Common Humanity, understanding that we all have shortcomings and suffering is simply one part of the human experience.
Mindfulness, it’s so hot right now! It is ‘holding’ negative thoughts in a mindful way, allowing them to pass through your thought process without judgement. (We’ll talk more about this in a second).
My 3 Top Hacks To Foster Self Compassion.
Name Your Inner Critic
Your conscience and your inner critic are not one the same. By giving the negative voice a name, you separate it from your own voice.
Treat Yourself as you would treat a Friend
One good place to start is by thinking about how you would treat others that you care about. Would you say what you are saying to a friend?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Learning to allow thoughts from your inner critic come into focus without judgement and to pass through without acting on them takes away their power.
Applying kindness to any situation only improves it. So why would applying kindness to yourself be any different? I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote from Buddha I found while researching this piece.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
Remember, whatever you are going through you aren’t alone.