How to be kinder to yourself - Deepstash

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Self-criticism doesn’t work

Self-criticism doesn’t work

  • When we respond with self-criticism in moments of emotional pain, we’re making a deliberate effort to reduce our suffering.
  • But it’s not that simple. Self-criticism doesn’t increase your sense of control, but rather tricks your brain into feeling in control. Instead of protecting you from others’ judgment, self-criticism subjects you to your own.
  • While it may redirect anger, this means emotions are suppressed rather than expressed
  • There’s a smoother, less traveled road you can choose to take, and it’s the antidote to self-criticism. This is self-compassion.

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Self-compassion: the beneficial alternative

Self-compassion is being an ally to yourself rather than an enemy.

It involves three closely connected components:

  1. Self-kindness is as it sounds: it’s the act of treating yourself kindly, rather than with harsh criticism.
  2. Common humanity involves acknowledging that humans are flawed works-in-progress who are all connected to each other, if only through the fact that they all struggle in some way.
  3. Mindfulness is the process of neither pushing away nor clinging to any thought or feeling – it’s the experience of simply observing everything as it is.

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Self-compassion doesn’t always come easy

Despite the extensive research demonstrating the mental and physical benefits of self-compassion, it’s an often unknown, overlooked, or even avoided practice.

  • Some people are unfamiliar with self-compassion because it was never, or only infrequently, modeled by their parents or caregivers.
  • Even for those familiar with self-compassion, misunderstandings of what it truly involves can be another barrier.

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Learn to identify self-criticism

Recognizing that you’ve fallen into self-criticism is the crucial first step in saving yourself from it and practicing more self-compassion:

  • Did I call myself names?
  • Was I looking for the worst-case scenario? 
  • Did I use words like ‘should’ or ‘must’? 
  • Was my body showing signs of stress? 

Self-criticism takes many forms and everyone experiences it differently, but if you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to some or all of the questions above, this may be a sign that you fell into self-criticism.

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Befriend your inner critic

You can do this in retrospect or in the moment you catch your inner critic speaking to you.

Imagine your inner critic as a being that lives inside your brain and talks to you. Rather than taking what it says (eg, ‘You’re so pathetic’) to be true or criticizing it for speaking up at all, approach your inner critic with curiosity — an ‘Oh, it’s you again’ attitude. Reflect, either internally or through journaling, on what your inner critic is trying to tell you.

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Reframe judgmental thoughts as factual ones

If your inner critic said: ‘I’m so nosy. I shouldn’t have asked such personal questions,’ you would restate this as factually as possible. For example: ‘I asked one question about my boss’s marriage that, in this moment, I wish I hadn’t asked.’

Stripping down the situation to its indisputable facts removes the judgmental haze that can pull you into an alternative reality based on your interpretations and assumptions about yourself and the world.

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Talk to a younger version of yourself

When you offer compassion to a younger version of yourself, you’re stepping out of the cognitive rigidity that typically fuels your self-criticism and feelings of shame.

By externalizing and connecting with a version of yourself that isn’t technically present, you might find you can more easily access a compassionate approach.

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Identify your values

You’ll find that practicing self-compassion is more effective when directed towards supporting your needs, rather than being a vague promise to be kinder to yourself.

To understand your needs, you must first have some sense of what you value most in life. It’s in the moments that you’re not living in line with your values – and subsequently not practicing self-compassion – that you tend to suffer the most.

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