Have you ever criticized or judged yourself? Maybe a meeting didn’t go well and you were angry with yourself for not preparing enough or not being able to express yourself the way you wanted to. Or maybe you forgot to do something you really needed to get done and you told yourself: “I can’t believe I forgot again! That’s so stupid of me!”
That critical voice used to run in my head all the time. I remember feeling shocked the first time I realized how many negative messages were running through my head and how hard I was on myself. I would never talk that way to a friend! So how come I was speaking to myself in such a mean way?
My inner critic actually had good intentions: She was trying to motivate me to get things done, not make mistakes and to do better. Unfortunately, in the process, she was also making me feel bad about myself. She was not being very compassionate in the process.
Oftentimes we are afraid that if we are too compassionate with ourselves, we will lose our motivation and drive to accomplish things. Interestingly, a number of studies on self-compassion have found that people who have more self-compassion are less likely to procrastinate, more likely to re-engage with goals after facing setbacks, and more willing to receive and act on feedback. It has even shown to lead to more success in dieting. Self-compassion is definitely more powerful than self-criticism!
Practicing to love myself has meant practicing self-compassion. So instead of berating myself for not doing something, I would tell myself that it is ok, that there is no need to be perfect, and that I can get started on it now instead. =)
How do you practice self-compassion? You can begin by thinking of something that upset you today or this week. Instead of judging and criticizing yourself, simply write to yourself about this situation as if you were talking to your best friend. Your best friend has your back, supports you, encourages you, consoles you, and celebrates with you. We are spending a lot of time with ourselves. Why not develop a relationship in which we are our own “best friend”?
For more about research on self-compassion, watch Stanford’s health psychologist Kelly Mcgonigal’s talk: http://kellymcgonigal.com/2011/12/01/the-power-of-self-compassion/