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Silence your inner critic: a guide to self-compassion in the toughest times

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/jan/06/silence-your-inner-critic-a-guide-to-self-compassion-in-the-toughest-times

theguardian.com

Silence your inner critic: a guide to self-compassion in the toughest times
Is your internal monologue friendly, calm and encouraging – or critical and bullying? Here is how to change it for the better

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Your Internal monologue

Your Internal monologue

Your internal monologue can be friendly, calm, and encouraging or critical and bullying.

It is possible to change your inner monologue. Fostering compassion on ourselves can benefit not only our individual health and happiness but also that of society.

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Tune in to your thoughts

Developing self-compassion is developing insight so you can see yourself, instead of be yourself.

Many of us have become used to avoiding uncomfortable emotions. The first step towards self-compassion is becoming aware of our inner world - what triggers the feeling of anger, disgust or shame, how we react to them, and the content and tone of our internal monologue.

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Support your mind with your body

Ground yourself during discovery with soothing rhythm breathing, muscle relaxation or mindfulness exercises.

Soothing rhythm breathing: With your shoulders back and chest open, slow and deepen your breath. The key is to maintain the smoothness of breath: Four or five seconds in, and the same out again.

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Self-compassion is not self-care

Self-compassion is not merely being kind. Compassion is best understood as turning towards suffering and taking action to reduce it.

Self-compassion is the ability to stand back and question why you feel this way, and a commitment to engage with pain at its source.

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Accept your ‘tricky’ brain

Our complex cognitive system is able to imagine and anticipate the objective self, but is also inclined to dwell on negative thoughts such as "If only I'd..." and "I should have..."

Self-compassion is a trade-off with self-criticism. For some people, the balance between the two is so skewed that the inner critic controls who they are in the world.

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Acknowledge the forces against you

Self-criticism is often underpinned by a fear of not being good enough, being dismissed or devalued, or seen as undesirable. This triggers our threat system and brings out the worst in our brains.

We also live in a society that is always judging and evaluating us. We are not taught how to deal with suffering.

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Know when to step outside yourself

Self-criticism is a dialogue between two aspects of yourself: the one side is attacking and angry, the other is receiving it and feeling upset and hurt.

Instead, imagine your inner dialogue as that of two strangers. As soon as you see it as external from you, you can see it more clearly.

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Treat yourself as you would treat a friend

Validate, acknowledge, and reassure yourself.

If you wouldn't say it to a friend, don't say it to yourself. We would seldom tell a friend 'it's not that bad', or 'look on the bright side.' We need to recognise within ourselves when we're hurting.

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How your inner monologue speaks matters

Speaking to yourself with warmth and kindness can feel like a verbal hug by triggering the physiological memory of feeling safe.

A friendly facial expression and upright and open posture can positively influence your mind.

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Your inner critic

Your inner critic

We almost all have a character inside our minds that tends to visit us late at night when we're very tired, telling us terrible things in order to destroy our self-confidence and self-c...

Every story has two sides

You could tell everything as a tragedy, or you could tell an equally valid and far kinder story. You could say that you made some serious errors, as every human will, and you paid the price for them. Nevertheless, you tried to be good and loved a few people properly. Despite everything, your heart is in the right place.

The difference between hope and despair depends on the way of telling conflicting stories from the same facts.

Your inner critic was always an outer critic

... who has been internalized. You're speaking to yourself as someone else once talked to you or made you feel.

You should acknowledge your failures and be happy to make amends. But you also have to stand back from this critic and question what they are doing in your mind. They don't have a right to walk as they wish through the rooms of your mind.

Everybody has an inner critic

Everybody has an inner critic

Our inner critic is the voice from inside our heads, that always puts us under a microscope.

Its "job" is to find and accentuate our failures.

You can’t get rid of your inner critic

But it is in your power to develop a relationship with it.

Think of your inner critic as a part of you, not all of you. This gives you distance from it and keeps you from attacking yourself.

Personifying Confidence

Give to the voice of Confidence more of the time you were giving to your inner Critic, letting it acknowledge your accomplishments and positive qualities.

You can try imagining Confidence sitting across from you in a chair, as you listen to what it has to say.