Do you pride yourself on getting things done, wearing many hats, and multitasking like a pro?
If you identify as a high achiever, goal-setter, high performer, or a similar characterization of these, then you are probably also used to being your own harshest critic.
As someone who’d been practicing as a licensed clinician for years, earned my Ph.D., two Master’s degrees, had three children, got married, and owned both a car and a home by the age of 30, I get it.
You’ve likely convinced yourself that being hard on yourself has helped keep you on your toes, and prevented you from settling or not living up to your potential in some way. I often speak with driven individuals who view self-compassion as a means of condoning inefficiencies. Or, they think that if they aren’t too critical with themselves, they are “letting themselves off the hook,” which is viewed as a weakness, unproductive, lazy, or simply unacceptable.
I did too.
The internal critic
While there are many benefits to challenging ourselves, there are some major drawbacks to overly-criticizing ourselves to the point where we have a bully-like relationship with ourselves.
The literature and research demonstrates, unequivocally, that self-compassion moves us forward in a much healthier and sustainable manner, than any form of beating up on ourselves ever could.
If you like to get things done, and tend to accomplish a lot, but you’re also experiencing an intense, annoying, or highly negative internal dialogue with yourself, it’s time to get real about the negative effects.
You will NOT stop being successful, needed, or productive, just because you decide to show yourself some kindness. Pushing yourself too hard, telling yourself you have to prove things to other people, or telling yourself that you’re somehow a failure or not enough unless you’re in constant “on mode,” is a recipe for burnout.
How do I know? Well, besides helping other achievers address, prevent, and recover from burn out I, myself, had been there and had to get out too!
The challenge is that it’s hard to stop beating up on ourselves when we’ve been doing it for so long. The inner critical thought process has become a mental habit, and most habits have to be replaced; they can’t just be broken out of.
So, what is a healthy replacement for too much harsh self-critique? Self-compassion.
I know it may sound cliche, but it’s true.
Self-compassion can seem too simple, yet too abstract, all at the same time. So, let’s break down how to implement some more self-compassion in your life.
- Notice that you are beating up on yourself. What does that look and sound like? What are you saying or doing to yourself?
- Imagine, you the critic; maybe even envision this as a particular image, like a child.
- Respond to that part directly as if it were hurt, scared, or lost in some way. Say something that offers support like, “Yeah, that was pretty tough. It could have gone better, but we’ve learned a lot from this.”
- Let any awkwardness be okay. Whether you are saying helpful or harmful things, either way, you’re talking to yourself. Might as well make the dialogue helpful rather than harmful.
As simple and silly as this quick self-compassion exercise may be, it is effective when you use it regularly. When you engage in this exercise, you’re doing more than just changing how you talk to yourself. You are also rewiring your brain to be more supportive. You are also teaching yourself how to reduce the stress response in your body, which will open up the pathways in your brain allowing you to reach the more creative elements of your mind. It is a win-win-win!
***Disclaimer: This content does not serve as medical advice or treatment. Talk with your doctor if there are potential conditions or concerns that may be impacted by anything you choose to engage in from this video. Please note that coaching and therapy are not the same; they are separate services and the above mentioned are separate business entities.
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