Monday, January 4, 2016

Be Your Own BFF

Many of us are prone to self criticism.  We have a strong and often strident inner voice that is only too pleased to tell us why we aren't special, how we have messed up, and why people don't like us.

What is interesting to note though, is that we are typically very generous and loving to others.  We are compassionate, giving, caring, supportive and understanding.  Why is it that we find it so difficult to direct that same kindness and love toward ourselves?

The relationship we have with ourselves is, and will always be, our longest standing relationship.  It should therefore be the most important relationship in our lives, one which we dedicate ourselves to perfecting. Instead of just working to brighten others' days... how about working to brighten your own?

We need to learn to practice more Self Compassion.  While Self Esteem (which seems to get the most press) is all about How we SEE ourselves, Self Compassion is about How we TREAT ourselves.  It seems as though there must be an inextricable link between the two, almost a chicken and egg symbiosis where one feeds the other.  However, self-compassion is a typically overlooked component that proves critical to our mental health and perspective.

According to research conducted by Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and Associate Professor in Human Development at the University of Texas, Self-Criticism can lead to not only lower Self Esteem, but Anxiety and Depression. According to Neff, Self Compassion consists of 3 components:

  1. Self Kindness - being understanding and gentle with yourself when you are suffering
  2. Common Humanity - realizing that you are not alone in your struggles, that others too share in the same struggle
  3. Mindfulness - observing life as it truly is, without judgement or critique
If you find that your relationship with - You - could use a little work, that you tend to treat others far better than you treat yourself, then it may be time for you to conduct a little 'relationship overhaul'. 

  • Notice how you`re treating yourself.  Consider how you would treat someone you loved and cared about.  Why would you do less for yourself?  Use this as your model, fostering a relationship with yourself that is guided by how you would treat someone you loved.  
  • Pay attention to your language.  If you wouldn't ever dream of saying something to someone else, of being that critical of others, why would you ever consider saying it to yourself?  Don't use language with yourself (name calling for example) that you wouldn't use with anyone else. Think of what you say to yourself, then consider what it would sound like to say them out loud in front of others.  If it makes you cringe then it is language you need to change.
  • Don't berate your Inner Critic.  Being critical of your critic tends to create an endless loop of behaviour that is challenging to break free of.  Instead of beating your Critic up, thank them for their attempt to help and explain how they are causing you distress.  Spending the time to educate yourself about how the criticism makes you feel, how it is not serving you, opens you to new ways and approaches
  • Develop counter statements.  Give your inner voice a new purpose and job. Think of the most common self criticism that you tend to use and hear, and develop counter statements to each. These become your new descriptors.  Recruiting your critic to your personal cheerleading squad redirects their focus in a way that is more positive for you and far easier than trying to fire them!
When people are mistreating us we always have the option of walking away.  We can let go of the toxic relationship and move on to one that serves us better, that builds us up rather than brings us down.  However, we can't walk away from a relationship with ourselves. There is no escaping it. Therefore, it makes sense to invest time and energy into being our own Best Friend. We need to learn to treat ourselves with love, understanding and compassion.  It is often how we treat ourselves that sets the bar for how others treat us.

Show yourself the respect and love that you deserve and expect. The relationship you have with yourself should not just be your longest relationship, it should be your best. Gift yourself with being the Best Friend you want, need and deserve.   

(for those that would like to explore the concept of Self Compassion even further, you might find value in checking out Kristin Neff's book on Self Compassion.  I have provided the link below for a quick reference)

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