How do you talk to yourself about yourself? Do you tend to engage in self-criticism when you make a mistake or fail to live up to the expectations you have for yourself? Do you spend time catastrophizing or predicting something negative happening prior to any future event? A lot of people have a conversation going on in their head that goes something like, "Why did you do that?" "That was really stupid!" "When are you going to get this right?" "This is never going to work." "If someone knows this about you, they'll think you are weak (inadequate, a failure, or whatever negative description your mind comes up with)." "This is not fair!" Is it like an internal chatter that critiques everything you do or say, and then criticizes you for it...kind of like a bully in your head?
Or are you able to say things to yourself like, "It's ok if you make a mistake." "You don't have to do it perfectly." "You don't have to know everything before you try something new." "You can figure it out." "You can do it." "You're doing the best you can right now, and that's good enough." "It's going to get better." "You are not alone in this." "You don't have to take care of everything."
Take a minute to stop and notice your internal dialogue...
Even if you aren't consciously saying negative things out loud, what you say inside your mind can have a huge effect on you. Some people are so regularly self-critical that they rarely try something new. Others don't engage in a lot of self-criticism, but they acknowledge they don't know how to give compassion or encouragement to themselves. Even people who easily give compassion to others notice themselves feeling reluctant to give it to themselves.
Why is that? Maybe we think we would be weak and needy if we desired compassion and encouragement...sort of like the old Stuart Smalley character on Saturday Night Live. Perhaps we think we would be self-centered if we talked that way to ourselves. Or maybe we think we would be lying to ourselves.
Yet, self-compassion is one of the most powerful tools available for changing your life. It can, literally, re-wire your brain to overcome the negative effects of shame, trauma and regret in your life.
The good news is that, if you can recall ever responding in a compassionate way to someone else, or even to a beloved pet, then you already have developed neural pathways in your brain that you can use to help yourself! Learning how to activate and use those pathways, strengthening the ones already in place, or developing new ones in your brain around self-compassion, can help you make significant changes in your life.
It may take some time, but once you start re-wiring your brain via self-compassion, you will discover that you soon begin to let go of shame about past mistakes or traumas that may be currently holding you back in your life. You'll likely notice that you are starting to make better decisions on behalf of yourself. You'll be better able to figure out what relationships and activities that you want to keep, and which ones you need to delete from your life that are actually harmful to you. You'll find yourself achieving more of what you want in life. Ultimately, you will likely experience a growing sense of confidence and peace, or at least, this is what the people I work with often tell me happens for them.
If you think this might help you, and you'd like to learn how to respond to yourself with greater compassion and encouragement, please call me at 847-781-1407 or email me at [email protected].