More than ever before, we need a reliable tool to manage our inner critic, judgement, negative thinking and the opinions of others. This is self-compassion, and here’s how to start using it.

In case you have been living under a rock, I wanted to let you know that we are living in a very hyper critical time.

We have become addicted to the internet with all it’s catastrophizing news headlines, controversial click-bait and it’s social forums and soapboxes. 

Of course there are plenty of great things on the internet too.

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But these great things are book ended by the extremes – beautiful people trying to outdo each other, and the dark corners where bullies, trolls and critics lurk.

As it turns out, even the most resilient amongst us can get sucked into the extreme ends of the internet in just a few clicks.

We can start questioning ourselves, doubting ourselves, or even judging ourselves.

I want to be clear with you – all of this happens in real life too.

But on the internet it happens faster, more broadly, and 24 hours per day.

That’s why now, more than ever, I think self compassion is so important. It’s a tool we can all use and benefit from, and it is a powerful antidote to the mental curveballs that we experience in our daily lives.

I want to walk you through the three elements of self-compassion today; discuss why it’s important, help you work out how self-compassionate you are and take some simple steps to bolster your resilience.

If it doesn’t feel good, then why do we criticize ourselves?

We humans are a lot like dogs in the way we behave and our social hierarchy.

Some dogs are aggressive and want to be the alpha dog. Other dogs are less confident and they roll over to expose their belly.

So self-criticism is a way of fitting in, even if it’s at the bottom of the pecking order.

When we criticize ourselves, it’s actually a submissive, safety behaviour that helps us to be accepted in social circles.

If we are submissive and self-critical, it might appease the bully or garner sympathy so that someone will tell us that we’re not as bad as we think we are. 

When we are being self-critical, we are simply saying – ‘I don’t want to be rejected or abandoned.’ We are trying to save ourselves.

But as you can hear, this is a pretty unhealthy and uncomfortable way of dealing with internal and external criticism.

Luckily there is another, healthier option that makes way more sense – self-compassion.

What is self-compassion?

Psychologist Kristen Neff has done most of the work into self-compassion – a powerful tool for emotional resilience, helping us to cope with the good and bad around us. 

There are three main parts to self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness (instead of self-judgement)
  2. Common humanity (instead of withdrawal and isolation)
  3. Mindfulness (instead of overthinking).

It is essentially a process to help you stop judging and evaluating yourself altogether.

It’s a way to stop labeling yourself and the things you do as good or bad – and to simply accept things with an open heart. 

It means we can show ourselves the kindness that we would show a good friend, and to treat ourselves with more respect and acknowledgement.

I want to explain these concepts by exploring why self compassion is important – especially right now. 

Why is self-compassion important?

At this time more than any other, you are being constantly bombarded by conflict and catastrophizing and many other things that cause you to have an emotional response.

Back in the old days you were only exposed to the people you saw each day, and printed advertising and TV.

Now we have an added layer – the 24/7 barrage of the internet.

When we are being self-critical, we are simply saying – ‘I don’t want to be rejected or abandoned.’ We are trying to save ourselves.

We get sucked in by intriguing headlines like these few I found online today:

“Mum’s baby ‘mistake’ angers” 

“Belle Gibson’s sob story in a letter” or even

Trump Sparks Outrage by Quoting Emerson to Refer to Himself as “the King”

The intrigue ropes you in, and then you enticed into getting emotional – into having an opinion at the least, or making a judgement and taking sides at the most – even better – to comment at the bottom of the story and add your 2c worth.

After all, Google ranking, right? That’s the online newspaper’s agenda – readership and reaction.

But how does that leave you feeling? Happy? Light? Resilient?

Nope.

The fact is, more than ever before there is a buffet of triggers for negative thoughts and feelings, comparison and self judgement on the internet.

But you don’t have to get sucked into ANY this stuff.

Managing your exposure is obviously important. You can choose which media you follow and how often, and that’s a discipline worth having.

In addition, you can learn the skills of self-compassion for those times that you get drawn into emotionally challenging situations.

You can learn to be more gentle with yourself, more accepting of others, and understanding that the only person you can control is yourself (what a relief!).

You can notice that others feel like you do, too. You are not alone. There is that common experience that somehow eases the suffering.

And you can dial down catastrophizing and overthinking so you can be present, mindful and more at peace, calmer and more resilient.

To be self-compassionate, we must first realise that negative emotions are part of the human experience and to know that we can have authority over them.

When you can notice and accept negative emotions with kindness and be open to feeling them and letting go, you will experience many benefits.

More emotional stability.

More rational thinking. 

More love. 

Better relationships. 

Better decision making. 

Better coping skills. 

Less stress and anxiety. 

More resilience.

Imagine how your life would be different if you were more self-compassionate.

Imagine how much less drama there would be, less second-guessing and insecurity.

Imagine how much more self-confident you’d feel.

How other people’s stuff would roll off you like water off a duck’s back.

How you would have more empathy for others, more energy for your loved ones, more joy, and a greater sense of satisfaction, meaningful connection and self-love.

That’s what self-compassion can create.

How self-compassionate are you?

Kristen Neff has a free self-compassion test on her website.

You can take that test, but for now I will ask you six of the questions from this test.

  1. How often are you disapproving and judgemental about your flaws and inadequacies?
  2. When you’re feeling down, how often do you approach your feelings with curiosity and openness?
  3. How often are you intolerant toward your own personality traits that you think are negative?
  4. When you fail at something important to you, how often do you try to keep things in perspective?
  5. When something painful happens, how often do you blow the incident out of proportion?
  6. When you’re suffering, how often are you kind to yourself?

How did you go?

In an ideal situation, your scores for the positively worded questions were higher, and your scores for the negatively worded questions were lower.

The online test goes into more detail and gives you ratings in specific areas of self-kindness, self-judgement, common humanity, isolation, mindfulness, over-identification and an overall score. 

Whether you take the test or not, maybe you want to build more self compassion!

Here are three easy ways.

Three easy ways to build

self-compassion

1. Loving kindness meditation is a way of connecting to yourself in a loving and kind way.

Taking just 10 minutes once or twice per week for guided loving kindness meditation can help you build a resilience bank that you can draw on when you are feeling low.

Being proactive about this exercise can help to train your brain with more positive messaging as a default position.

2. Journalling or self coaching is an easy way to get your thoughts and feelings out on paper.

When we see what we are thinking and feeling, it’s easier to stand back from that and be empathetic. 

It’s easy to note the exaggeration and to pull back from that, to notice and re-frame faulty or unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs.

3. Ask yourself some powerful questions.

I am a firm believer that the way to solve any problem is by asking a question.

When the chips are down, you can ask yourself – How could I shift into compassion? 

What might I say to a friend who feels like this? 

What would that feel like? 

How would that change things?

Questions trigger the logical, factual parts of your brain, so they are a useful way to pull back from the emotional heat of the moment and to start thinking more rationally and objectively.

Questions are a powerful way to solve the inner critic. It can be useful to have some questions written down in advance, so that you can refer to it in such a moment.

Summary

Our modern lives are busy and we are surrounded by catastrophe, judgement and bullying, which can affect even the most resilient people.

Those unfortunate situations can bring out the worst in us, in both feelings and behaviours.

But we can rather create better relationships, connections, emotional balance, resilience, peace and joy in our lives through the use of self-compassion.

The three elements are:

  1. Self-kindness
  2. Common humanity, and
  3. Mindfulness

You can take Dr Neff’s online test to measure your own levels of self-compassion.

We can show ourselves the kindness that we would show a good friend, and to treat ourselves with more respect and acknowledgement.

Three practices to increase self-compassion include:

  1. Loving kindness meditation
  2. Journalling, and
  3. Powerful questioning.

If you would like to study self-compassion with me in March 2020, please visit melaniejwhite.com/habitology to sign up for the Habitology Membership.

Ready to be more self compassionate?

You’ll love the benefits it will bring into your life! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

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