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Why don’t we speak words of kindness to ourselves?
When we lack perfection, we lack motivation. Our inner critic yelling at us becomes our “why” instead of true purpose.
Competition is meant to fill an endless void as we scroll through social media and everyone’s highlight reel.
In that mindset, we think there’s no way self-acceptance is the key to success. We think we have to change everything about ourselves and wear a mask to gain approval.
If we think we are doing something for the sheer pleasure of it, would we resist promoting it on our profile? It’s because we fear that everyone is watching, judging us. After all, it was Shakespeare who said, “All the world’s a stage.”
Really, others couldn’t be bothered to think of all the ways we succeed or fail. They don’t obsess over our insecurities. It’s our doing that this happens. We each have a negativity bias where we focus more on the bad than the good. It’s a cycle we fall into when we don’t have self-compassion.
Finding our compassionate voice in the midst of a crisis is important toward overcoming anything. But the truth is we rely on our inner critic to whip us into shape.
What if I told you it doesn’t have to be that way?
We often think that compassion means lack of motivation. Aundi Kolber says, “The paradox of compassion is that though we believe it will keep us stuck, it actually opens the door to resilience.”
If we look in the mirror and don’t see our ultimate best self, we think we will slide. We think that means we aren’t worthy. We think it means we won’t get anything done, that it will all be over if we don’t work like machines. We think we can’t be human. We are set up to fail in this way. It has to stop. It can stop with us.
That’s because resilience doesn’t mean “I’m ready for everything and anything that comes my way.” Resilience means “I will do the hard things and feel the hard things and acknowledge the hard things, but I am not here because of the hard things. I am here because I know who I am.”
We are a powerhouse even without our problems. So maybe it’s time to focus on that power.
Where does that power truly come from? Who are we without the world’s influence? This is also called differentiation of self in psychology. Who would we be if no one was watching?
What would we be doing right now in this very moment if no one was truly watching or waiting on us? Would we loosen up? Would we have fun? Would we still find meaning? Would we have goals still? Who would we be? How does this person contrast with who we have been being?
If we create an image of our authentic selves, we start to see some things dissolve. That person we thought we had to impress—dissolved. That job we thought we needed in order to feel important—dissolved. That achievement or reward we thought we needed in order to be seen—dissolved.
What is left is the real us. It can be scary to look at, right? Our days spent seem a little different. We don’t worry so much. The rumination, the anxiety, the stress, the imbalance, the wrong priorities…dissolve in the face of making a true difference.
That difference starts with loving ourselves. And allowing ourselves to be human. Even if we only let it in a few minutes of the day, practicing some mindfulness. If we can look at our planner and scratch off things to do for at least one day a week so we can rest. If we can plan moments of doing nothing but simply being still and existing—if we can truly be here, be alive, there’s nothing we can’t do.
But we forget that. We forget that we have a choice. We think it’s already been decided, like some predetermined fate.
Well, here’s the reality. No one can decide for us what we do with our time.
The answer isn’t more productivity hacks, morning routines, to-do lists, or packing more into our day. We are more than our productivity. We are more than what we put out in the day. We are more than the best or worst moments in our lives. The highs and lows don’t define our worth.
Feeling inadequate is human. And let me tell you, it’s popular. Oh why, you ask? Everyone is doing it. Everyone worries and wonders about their image. Everyone takes a deep breath before they post something and silently begs the social media universe for a like. Everyone puts their day’s priorities together in terms of how they can win approval.
Authenticity dissolves when we stop living for ourselves.
What if today, just for today if anything, we planned to do whatever we wanted? Okay, so we have jobs and responsibilities. But let’s allow ourselves to go deep into this daydream. What we really want is time to do things we most love. We want time for deep conversations, spiritual exploration, love of learning, poetic musings on life and meaning, having more fun and laughing when we are told to be serious, eating all that junk when our diets say “no,” and dancing to the beat of our own drum rather than following a crowd.
What if it gets lonely being our authentic selves?
I’m here to tell you it does. That’s because we become an independent thinker. We think for ourselves. We stop waiting on other people for the answers.
Self-compassion can seem like cutting everyone out and just loving ourselves, flaws and all. It’s not that simple, but sort of. Self-compassion is not being influenced 100 percent by those around us. Self-compassion is not loving our flaws but accepting they are there. It doesn’t mean we have to even like parts of ourselves. It just means that we can live with our choices and we thank the inner critic for trying because, really, it is trying to speak so we can move forward. But we are not our inner critic anymore when we step into our own light and shine. We become something grander.
We become who we actually are. A little vulnerability ensues. Some hard conversations about what we want and don’t want. Boundary work. Listening to our inner voice instead. Becoming intuitive. Loving ourselves even where we see lack. Responding to our limitations with gentleness. Opening ourselves up to a whole big wide world of possibilities and saying “yes” to things we once ran from.
According to Kristin Neff, the inner critic tries to ground us in safety. We think it’s unsafe to be ourselves. We think it’s unsafe to be happy. We think it’s unsafe to feel. The inner critic tries to bring us back to our comfort zone, to no risk of being real. Ah, but here’s where it gets interesting. When we step outside of our comfort zone, we realize we were never really safe like that. Everyone was trampling over us. We couldn’t breathe. Our voice was getting very, very small. And we felt unseen.
The inner critic isn’t inherently bad. But it’s not telling us the whole truth. It’s telling us what we catastrophize will happen if we say what we want to say. The worst-case scenario rarely happens. Write a list of best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and then what is realistically going to happen (maybe a bit of in-between). This practice is common in cognitive behavior therapy.
The new voice that emerges when we redirect and rewire our brain is the compassionate voice. The compassionate voice pushes back on the inner critic. It can grow stronger if we feel it, if we use it like any muscle.
How do we find our compassionate voice?
It may seem counterintuitive, but to listen to the inner critic first. Kristin Neff says we have to identify where we are self-sabotaging. What is it that our inner critic is trying to change? What behavior or choices does it not like? How do we feel when this happens? Why has this inner critic been going on and on about us for so long? In what ways is it trying to help us? Neff says, “Let your inner critic know that even though it may not be serving you very well now, its intention was good, and it was doing its best.”
We may find ourselves asking, “Wait, are you telling me to be compassionate toward my inner critic?”
The answer is yes. Yes, you’ve got it now! That’s the giant piece of it all.
Once we turn the compassionate voice to be kind to the inner critic, we can also use compassionate messages toward ourselves.
“I love you.”
“I am enough.”
“I want to change this, but I am still worthy.”
Then, write it out. We can write a love letter to ourselves. See what our inner critic has to say then. Perhaps it will not disappear but gently be folded away in a part of our brain we can pick up again another time.
For now, let it slumber. Our compassionate voice can take it from here.