Have you ever wanted a break from being you? I’m going to quote the ever wise Pink here (I’ve heard she coming back to the music world… and I am very excited about this):
“Every day I fight a war against the mirror
I can’t take the person starin’ back at me
I’m a hazard to myself
Don’t let me get me
I’m my own worst enemy
It’s bad when you annoy yourself
Don’t wanna be my friend no more
I wanna be somebody else”
I remember singing along to this when I was younger, nodding along thinking YEP. Me too, Pink, me too. Today, the story is, thankfully, different. Sure there are days when I still annoy myself, but even in those moments I’ve learnt to be patient and kind with myself.
This is something, I think a lot of us struggle with. Rather than treating ourselves with compassion, we’re often our worst critic. We set ourselves high expectations and beat ourselves up emotionally when we don’t reach those expectations.
Why are we so hard on ourselves?
Sadly, a big part of this is because we’re bombarded by negative messages, from the media and from society. Advertising and mainstream media often tells us we’re not good enough and that we need X or Y to be complete. Photoshopped celebrities and perfect Instagram accounts tell us this is what life should look like.
And, perhaps worse than this, we often experience negativity in childhood. I was called a “freak” at school, people spread rumours about me, mocked my hair, called me weird, quiet, a geek. These things have an impact. When you’re told something enough, you start to believe it.
So we think if we berate ourselves, we’ll change. But you know what? The brain doesn’t work like that.
Being hard on ourselves actually changes our physiology. It affects our ability to think outside of the box and dream big. Being compassionate to ourselves however, has the opposite effect. A study has even found that those who score highly on tests of self-compassion have less anxiety and depression, they also tend to be more optimistic.
Makes a lot of sense right? It’s hardly surprising and many of us know it isn’t helpful to be so critical of ourselves… but, we still find it hard to stop.
How to show yourself compassion
If you’re struggling to be compassionate towards yourself, here are a few exercises that might help.
Watch your language
No, I’m not telling you to stop swearing (fuck that), I’m telling you to stop saying negative things about yourself. When we say negative statements out loud like “Oh I’m not good enough for that” or “It’s terrible, I’m not as good as Sharon” (bloody Sharon) we are confirming to our minds that we aren’t good enough.
When we say these things, we are giving validity and credibility to a lie.
So your first step is to stop saying these things out loud. It’s not cute, humble or self-deprecating… it’s bullshit. Replace them with statements like “I’m still learning” or “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far”.
Write a letter to yourself, but imagine you’re writing it to a friend. What would you tell them about what they’re doing? Would you say they weren’t good enough or that they’re not worthy? No, you wouldn’t. Chances are you would be supportive, encouraging and positive.
So do this for yourself. Write a letter of encouragement, point out all the awesome things you’ve already achieved and say why you are so damn capable.
Face your flaws
Part of self-compassion is acknowledging your flaws and staring them in the face. Some people think being kind to yourself means ignoring flaw or saying to themselves “I am great at everything”, and I’m sorry – but your brain isn’t going to fall for that. After telling yourself you’re not good enough, suddenly changing the script to “I’m awesome at everything” isn’t going to fly.
Instead, give your flaws some space. Lay them out and take a look at them. Nobody (except Beyonce) is perfect, so accept them for what they are and give them consideration. Is there anything you can do to improve them, or are they simply a part of you?
Turn failures into learning experiences
When we’re critical of ourselves, failures hit us hard. After all, isn’t failure proof that we aren’t good/talented enough? If that was really the case, no one would succeed at anything – including JK Rowling who experienced a great deal of failure and was rejected 12 times before getting Harry Potter published (she gave a great speech on failure here).
When failure happens, it happens because we’ve tried and THAT should be applauded.
When you fail at something, look for the lessons. What can you learn from the experience?
When we are kind to ourselves, we give ourselves room to grow. We allow ourselves to try, to fail, to learn, to create. We support ourselves on our journey and I promise, when it comes to motivation this is much more effective than being critical, negative and hard on ourselves.
How do you show yourself compassion? Let me know over on Facebook.