How to be kinder to yourself

How to be kinder to yourself

Having studied psychology, including mental ill-health and happiness, for many decades now I’ve learned many things about what makes humans tick; and what makes them tick well!

I’d never say there’s a “secret” or that one thing is necessarily more important than others; but I would say there are a few BIG THINGS, practices that can be super helpful for almost everyone.

And there’s no doubt in my mind that one of the BIG ONES is self compassion …

via Psyche by Brooke Schwartz

Imagine you’ve been planning for a high-stakes situation, such as a difficult conversation with a friend, an important sports game, or a presentation for your company’s leadership team. You’ve spent months rehearsing what you’ll say or do. But then, once you’re in front of your friend, the game starts, or you face your colleagues and superiors – you choke.

No words come out. You stiffen and miss your shots.

Anxious, embarrassed, you’re terrified you’ll lose your friend, get dropped from the team, or miss your chance at the promotion. Afterwards, you run somewhere private to cry or squirm, or both.

As you stand there, tears flowing and stomach churning, you’re hit with a flurry of thoughts:


She’ll never speak to me again. / I’ll never get picked for the team again. / I’m never getting promoted.

How did I mess that up when I practised for so long?

What made me think I was worthy in the first place?

I’ll never succeed at anything.

If you’re like many people who put unfair pressure or expectations on themselves, you may know these kinds of self-critical thoughts well. This doesn’t mean you like them, but they’ve frequented your mind nonetheless.

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. In terms of evolution, self-criticism developed as a response to social emotions, such as shame, humiliation and guilt, with the purpose being to increase our sense of control, self-protect from others’ judgment, redirect our anger, and motivate ourselves to change our behaviour next time. In short, self-criticism is an evolved strategy to stay part of the in-group in order to survive.

I see this often in my work with clients: they believe that the harsher they are on themselves, the more motivated to change – and consequently accepted by others – they’ll be. If they just push themselves harder in the face of painful emotions, they’ll come out the other side stronger. If they hold themselves to impossible standards, they’re sure to meet them eventually. Their overarching belief is that self-criticism, in all its forms, means getting better, working harder, and achieving more.

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. And while some will say they need self-criticism to motivate themselves to change, this goes against a core tenet of behaviourism: that punishment is not as powerful as reinforcement.

Fortunately, there’s a smoother, less travelled road you can choose to take, and it’s the antidote to self-criticism. This is self-compassion…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE