Be Kinder to Yourself (Control Your Inner Critic)

Could repeating words of acceptance and kindness change the way we see ourselves? According to research, it may.

While self-compassion has been identified as being a crucial component in creating and sustaining personal happiness, research shows that “self-compassion meditations,” or guided affirmations that encourage us to not only accept our imperfections, but to embrace and appreciate them, also play a major role in the way women perceive their bodies—and how we care for ourselves.

Women—and men—with improved body images have greater levels of self-confidence and happiness and less social anxiety about their appearance. “The biggest relationship we have in our life is the [relationship] with that voice in our head.”

Unfortunately, many of us have an exceptionally harsh inner critic relentlessly judging every flaw and misstep, regardless of how small or unavoidable it may be. And since it’s an internal conversation, no one steps in to silence that inner bully. Self-compassion can create the buffer we need to silence the critic and give ourselves a break.

A Growing Movement

Many of the principles of self-compassion are rooted in Buddhist principles, but self-compassion is also now widely embraced by Western psychologists. Self-compassion essentially means we become as nurturing and compassionate toward our own flaws and shortcomings as we are to our friends and loved ones. Studies have associated it with better performance in the classroom and on the job, as well as improved family relationships and self-confidence in social situations. Simply being good to ourselves make us feel more deserving, and that launches a cycle of becoming more committed to self-care.

The exploration of self-compassion has become popular because it counters the self-criticism that bars many of us from achieving our goals and discovering our true personal happiness.

Some of our inner voices can be quite cruel. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to others, and [what we say to ourselves] makes a huge difference in our ability to be happy. It helps us feel safe, and that allows us to feel happier, less stressed and more creative.

It may be surprising to learn how quickly self-compassion can be integrated into daily thinking, even when self-criticism is deeply ingrained. It’s just a case of needing to learn to do it for ourselves. You don’t have to spend years in therapy—you just have to learn to be gentler and less hard on yourself. And once you’ve learned that, even when you get down on yourself, you won’t be as hard on yourself for as long.

Learning to be compassionate to ourselves isn’t difficult; it simply requires becoming aware of our own self-talk and self-defeating behaviors. Try writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of an imaginary friend. What would this friend say to you from the perspective of unlimited compassion? Write with understanding and acceptance, and then read it again a few moments later and feel the compassion. Keeping a journal in which you review the day’s events, jotting down anything you felt bad about or judged yourself for. Afterward, add kind words of comfort in a gentle, reassuring tone and encourage yourself to do better next time.

Learning self-compassion can make us less depressed and anxious, and may help life less worrisome and you less of a perfectionist.

The great thing of note is, we all know how to be compassionate to others. We know how to be kind, how to be supportive to others. With self-compassion, we just have to be conscious and choose to treat ourselves better.

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