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Dealing with the Self-Critic

By Deborah Etienne-WardSelf-Critic

Do you ever beat yourself up for your shortcomings?  Do you often experience thoughts such as these: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m a failure”, “I’m not pretty enough”, “I am stupid”, “I hate myself”? When we are not able to meet our own expectations we experience emotional pain. Whilst we are very good at being compassionate towards our friends; family; and neighbours, we tend to criticise ourselves for our own limitations and perceived inadequacies.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is the process of being sensitive to the experience of our own suffering. Self-compassion can be thought of as having three interacting components:

  • Kindness to the self
  • Mindfulness
  • A sense of shared humanity

Kindness to the self: Self-kindness is about accepting your imperfections and treating yourself with gentleness and care. It is the opposite of being critical of yourself and rather it is accepting yourself just as you are.

Mindfulness: The concept of mindfulness is about being in the present moment or the ‘here and now’. Mindful acceptance is the process of allowing thoughts, emotions, and sensations to enter the mind without judgement. Mindfulness allows us to notice when we are suffering so that we can provide ourselves with compassion and acknowledge that our emotions are valid and important. When we are not being mindful we often get carried away with the storyline of our criticisms and emotions.

Shared humanity: Underlying this component of self-compassion is that nobody is perfect and everyone experiences failure and makes mistakes. Shared humanity is about recognising that our challenges and personal imperfections are part of the broader human experience, rather than believing that we are the only ones that are struggling with life experiences.

Benefits of self-compassion

When we are able to be compassionate towards ourselves we are more likely to admit our mistakes and be less upset by them. Self-compassion also provides us with greater life satisfaction, enhanced interpersonal functioning, greater motivation, improved resilience, personal growth, and wisdom. In general self-compassion seems to enhance our overall wellbeing.

Yoga and Self-compassion

One way to practice self-compassion is through the practice of yoga. Yoga provides us with an opportunity to learn to be in the present moment and to observe our mind and body. By increasing our awareness of the present moment we are able to notice when we experience critical thoughts and emotional pain and respond with compassion. Yoga creates a space for us to practice accepting our shortcomings without judgement, and to learn to treat ourselves with kindness and gentleness.

In partnership with BodyMatters, Love Body Yoga offers one-to-one yoga sessions delivered face-to-face or online from the comfort of your own home. The one-to-one format allows Lauren, Love Body Yoga instructor, to develop a yoga program specifically for your needs. Please contact Body Matters or Love Body Yoga for more information.

References:

Neff, K. & Tirch, D. (2013). Self-Compassion and ACT. In J. Ciarrochi, & T.B. Kashdan (Eds.), Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Positive Psychology: The seven foundations of well-being. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.