We all talk to ourselves on a daily basis, but did you ever notice the language that you use? “I’m so stupid, that was dumb, I’m such an idiot, this sucks, I’m a loser, I hate this, I can’t stand myself for doing/saying that….” My rule of thumb is this; If you wouldn’t tolerate someone else saying hurtful words to you, then why would you tolerate saying the same things to yourself? Why disrespect yourself with the same negative language that would be unacceptable coming from another person’s mouth? When I ask people to engage in more self-compassion they usually look at me like I am insane. “Talk nicer to myself? Be kinder and gentler to myself?” Well, yes that is what I am asking.
Self-compassion begins with positive self-talk. And by positive, I mean kind self-talk. This doesn’t have to be the Stuart Smally skit from SNL where you stare into the mirror and try convince yourself that you are “good enough, smart enough and dog-gonnit, people like you.” In fact, it is still important to be honest with yourself, even if you have made a mistake, hurt someone or disappointed yourself. Self-compassion is about acknowledging the flaws and imperfections of our lives while still allowing a space for change and continued growth.
How can we grow if we have already limited ourselves with the language inside our head? Think about how a child is effected if they constantly hear put-downs, insults and angry speech. That child grows up believing that they are no good, worthless and unloveable. Why would talking to yourself in such harsh ways result in anything different? The only possible difference is that our adult egos are able to suppress the immediate impact of these words. But fear not, these words will later bubble up to the surface of our consciousness in the form of anxiety, depression or anger.
So what is the price of self-compassion? Peace, reduced anxiety, improved mood and a greater sense of self worth. Catch yourself when you use negative self-talk and redirect yourself. Instead of saying, “I’m an idiot for screwing up”, say, “This isn’t the first mistake I have made and it probably will not be the last, but I have the opportunity to try again and make things better.” Leave out the finiteness of your negative statements to allow for new opportunities to change and grow. Life can be challenging, be on your own side and you’ll surprised at how differently things begin to look.