Be the Best.
We are swamped with messages like this every day. A lot of the time the source of these messages is ourselves. There is nothing wrong with having dreams and goals. But often, we don’t take the time to stop and consider whether this self-critical and competitive attitude actually helps us towards reaching these goals or realising our dreams, or actually might be getting in our way.
Self-critical attitudes and talk can be self-defeating. When our self-worth depends on others – where we want to out-compete others to feel good about ourselves – we can actually become more anxious and insecure. If we fail, we become even more self-critical, leading to a negative cycle and more unhappiness. When we are criticised, we feel defensive and got-at. Added to this, competition can provide the perfect circumstances for disconnection. Rather than building social connections, we see others as obstacles to overcome – and we end up feeling more removed from others – which doesn’t help our wellbeing.
Self-compassion however helps us to value ourselves not in comparison to others – either positively or negatively. Rather we value ourselves just because we are intrinsically deserving of care and compassion – just like everyone else. We treat ourselves as we would our best friend. Instead of berating, judging or otherwise adding to their despair, we listen with empathy and understanding and encourage them to see that mistakes are normal. And it’s not just self-critical over-achievers that lack self-compassion – some of the kindest people you know do too. There is little correlation between the trait of self-compassion and feelings of compassion towards others. We need to practice being kind to ourselves, even if we are habitually kind to others.
Self-compassion can lead to increased strength and resilience, better productivity, and decreased stress. We can also learn how to do it better. Here are some suggestions:
- Write down your self talk. If you end up berating yourself for saying the wrong thing in a situation, write down the self-critical words that you say to yourself, and ask yourself if you would ever say them to a friend? What would a friend say instead?
- Write yourself a letter. When you find yourself saying harsh things to yourself, take the perspective of a compassionate friend. What would a kind friend say to you now? What would their words be? Write them down, as if it were a letter to you. Come back to the letter later, and receive it from yourself. Keep it for weeks and months down the track and read it regularly.
- Develop a self-compassion phrase. When something tricky happens and you end up being self-critical, have a go-to phrase that you can use as a reminder to be kinder to yourself: “This is a moment of pain, and pain and suffering is a part of life. I want to be kind to myself now, and to give myself the compassion that I need at this moment”.
- Focus on your breath. You can find out more about this here.