Tackling negative self talk and taming the inner critic
With January well and truly underway, many of us have returned to work more determined than ever to put some of those New Years’ Resolution goals into practice. Whether it is to learn new skills, get more sleep, perhaps lose a few pounds, facing a new year gives us a new opportunity to kick start new habits for better health, wellbeing, and success.
Although New Years’ resolutions can be a positive, motivating force, they can also lead to high levels of self-criticism or negative self-talk.
Focusing on what you didn’t achieve or regret from last year can spark negative self-talk, with thoughts such as “did I do enough last year?”. These can lead to emotions of guilt, disappointment, and shame. Studies have found negative self-talk is one of the major blocks in achieving goals, demotivating people into inaction by lowering people’s sense of their own capabilities and self-worth. In addition, shame is highly linked to an increased risk in developing depression. Fortunately, there are alternatives.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is the act of being kind to yourself unconditionally. Instead of judging and criticising yourself when reflecting over last year, self-compassion allows you to be kind and understanding to yourself when confronted with unmet goals, mistakes or regrets.
Having self-compassion means being able to recognize the difference between making a bad decision and being a bad person. It can help tackle the impact of negative self-talk, increasing self-acceptance which leads to higher levels of motivation, increasing your ability to meet your goals.
Research throughout the last decade has consistently found significant links between self-compassion and improved self-worth and resilience as well as more satisfying and healthy relationships. These all contribute to self-compassion, significantly improving psychological wellbeing.
Tips for Implementing Self-Compassion
Treat Yourself like a Small Child
Although many adults struggle to be compassionate to themselves, they are often compassionate to others, particularly children. By giving yourself the very same compassion you might give to a child, a good friend, or a pet, you may find you can be kinder to yourself.
When we find ourselves caught in a barrage of self-criticism, it is often because we have gotten swept away in our negative storylines — usually ones that often play on repeat in our heads. This process of over-identification, giving in to our internal critic, is usually accompanied by its counterpart, negative rumination. Mindfulness, or the state of non-judgmental awareness, is the antidote to both.
One simple way of implementing mindfulness is by practicing awareness of thoughts and feelings, particularly the “critical inner voice” — without trying to change anything. This awareness can counteract over-identification and promotes change through self-acceptance.
Remember You’re Not Alone
An important part of self-compassion is remembering that to feel is to be human, and that whatever you’re going through is also being experienced by millions of others. By being kind to ourselves and realizing that the human condition is imperfect we can see that our flaws and setbacks can connect us and not divide us.
Give Yourself Permission to be Imperfect
Self-compassion is about giving ourselves room to be humans. Humans are flawed and sensitive, lazy and unproductive. Try giving yourself a metaphorical ‘permission slip’ this new years’, giving yourself permission to make mistakes.
Tackling negative-self talk is not an easy process and can lead to lower mood, depression and anxiety. If you feel overwhelmed by low self-esteem and negative self-talk, counselling can provide a safe environment to explore and manage these difficulties.