How To Move From Self-Criticism to Self-Compassion
In yesterday’s article, I shared some of the research that showed why self-compassion is more effective for life change then self-criticism. Since self-compassion is at the other end of the spectrum of negativity and self-criticism, it is likely to feel quite unnatural to begin with. However, by relying on the following four methods of overcoming self-criticism, you can begin to focus on the positive, and the light, and begin to experience more fulfilment and joy in your daily life.
#1 Do Unto Yourself, As You Would Others
The next time you are tempted to self-criticize, consider what you would tell a colleague, friend, or family member if they were beating themselves up for the same concerns. Odds are that you would encourage and support the people in your life, and you would try to help them focus on the positive—instead of the negative. If this method is good enough for others, it’s good enough for you too! As Buddha wisely said:
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
There are many physical gestures, and many activities you can participate in that will help you to self-soothe when you feel negativity and stress building. This could be anything from taking a few deep and cleansing breaths, to taking a walk or stretching to clear your head. You could even reach out to family or close friends for a reassuring hug or pep talk. If there are no friends or loved ones near by, it can be soothing to pet your cat or dog. You can even get a professional massage. There are many ways you can get your stress or irritations out, just don’t focus inward, onto yourself.
#3 Watch Your Words
When you are thinking silently to yourself, or speaking out loud to others—watch your words. Even if you are trying to be positive, you may find that the words you choose are highly critical, and self-destructive. Focus on the specific words you use to describe yourself, and swap out the negative ones for positive words. Remember that you are a good person, and that you are loved, and you should be able to describe yourself positively and not feel sorry about it.
#4 Find an Empowering Phrase or Quote
Words can be motivational and inspirational, and finding a quote or phrase that promotes self-compassion can take you out of your negative frame of mind. This could be a quote or phrase by someone else, or an affirmation you create to remind yourself of your new healthy and positive outlook. You may even have several quotes, phrases, and affirmations you rely on. You can recite them out loud, in your head, and print them out so you can read them several times a day. Here are some quotes and phrases that I find helpful:
- “I did the best I could, given what I knew at the time. Next time I will be able to make better choices.”
- “I love and accept myself just as I am.”
- “I give myself the gift of unconditional love and compassion.”
- “I recognize that mistakes and failures are simply part of the learning process. I admire myself for taking risks and trying new things.”
- “Through the love and grace of God, I forgive myself for my mistakes and failures. Knowing God’s love, I can begin again.”
- ”I’m learning to be gentle with myself and this encourages me to be gentle with others.”
- “Set-backs and failures are temporary. They are stepping stones to a brighter future.
- “I am wonderful and valuable and I’m creating the life I love.”
Replacing your self-criticism with self-compassion is a process that will not occur overnight. However, with practice and dedication you will find positive thoughts replacing the negative ones, and your level of stress, anxiety, and self-criticism will begin to fade away!