How can you stop harsh self-criticism in its tracks, and instead, engage in self-compassionate conversation?
I hope you’ve had a chance to review my blog posts over the past few weeks. I’ve been addressing harsh self-criticism and negative self-talk . . . a habit and practice I am committed to help people stop.
As I have said previously, experiencing unpleasant feelings and engaging in negative self-talk lead to different results. Unpleasant feelings are uncomfortable, yet when felt can lead to insights and constructive action.
Negative self-talk is a thought-hijack of unpleasant feelings, is exponentially damaging and has the effect of “sinking” you or taking you down both related to your moods and to your self image.
Along with such negative self talk, another area of concern is related to how you speak generally and how important it is to consider the words you choose to use. Here, I want to make one final distinction about words that get mistaken for “feeling” words, especially as it relates to my thinking about harsh self criticism.
In particular, I am referring to words that so easily and commonly roll off someones tongue, such as: “feeling” inadequate, unworthy, undeserving, stupid or other similar words one uses to describe what they are feeling.
What I’d like you to notice is that these are not words that describe how one is feeling; instead, they are evaluative, comparative, or judgmental words.
When you evaluate, compare, or judge, you are thinking, not feeling.
If you use these words, the upshot is that you think you are describing how you feel, but you are really engaged in harsh self-criticism and consequently just making yourself feel worse.
Consider the possible feelings underneath these words. For instance, “stupid” and “ugly” may hide feelings of embarrassment and shame. “Inadequate” may suggest embarrassment, shame, disappointment, or helplessness.
“Unworthy” and “undeserving” carry a different kind of weight with even more serious implications – these evaluative words seemingly question or suggest that you may not be deserving of good things or, carried to the extreme, that you may not even be worthy of life. These words, too, often get mixed up with the experience of shame – and the belief that one is inadequate, defective, flawed, damaged, or bad.
It’s a common aspect of our shared humanity to think this way. We know that these type of beliefs often originate early in life and are associated with difficult life experiences and possibly trauma.
Let me offer a suggestion here.
If you have these beliefs about yourself, consider:
a) when the beliefs started
b) who initially said those words to you
c) whether you hear those words in your voice or someone else’s voice
d) which of the eight difficult feelings are associated with these beliefs e) whether or not these beliefs might be preventing you from moving forward in life.
If these beliefs remain active over a long period of time, you can view them as distracters that keep you disconnected from your feelings, stuck in the past, and prevented from living the life you would love to create for yourself.
There’s one more thought I’d like to add here. As humans, I don’t think we get to decide whether we are worthy or not – by virtue of being alive, you are deserving and worthy.
I hope you’ll consider this possibility. Overall, my efforts are geared toward encouraging you to develop a different relationship with yourself.
In other words, I am inviting and guiding you “to be your own best friend.”
This weeks focus:
1. Notice how often you use judgmental or self-deprecating language thus either blatantly or subtly attacking yourself. Instead, shift to
self-compassionate language. Speak kindly to yourself as you would speak to a close friend.
2. Do what you can to stop harsh self-criticism in its tracks. Engage in self-compassionate conversation here too.
Wishing you the best,
Dr. Joan Rosenberg
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