When you build a more accepting internal attitude, everything else is easier. Too many people have an internal relationship characterized by scorn and harshness. Through practice, it is possible to change this.
We speak of having an “Inner Critic” who treats us with scorn. This sub-personality observes our behavior, and offers comments about how we should act. It has wonderful 20/20 hindsight and is great at pointing out what we should have done. Often this is done in a shaming way that undermines our self-esteem.
To change, start by honoring the purpose of the Critic (to monitor and improve your performance) and preserve much of his/her skills of observation and analysis. What needs to be updated is the delivery. An Inner Coach makes comments on the same things that the Critic might, but the delivery is empowering rather than shaming.
You can begin making this change by simply affirming that you love and accept yourself despite the flaws noticed by the Critic. For example, you notice that you forgot an important object at home when you left for work this morning. The Critic starts to attack you for being absent-minded. As soon as you notice your internal self-criticism, soften towards yourself. Affirm either silently or aloud, “I deeply love and accept myself even though part of me is absent-minded.” Or, “even though part of me is berating myself.” Using an affirmation with these words will reconnect you to your self-acceptance while at the same time reminding you that this flaw is only a part of you. Once you have softened in this way, bring the Coach in to notice what you might have done differently and brainstorm how to wire the new pattern in.
It can be a stretch to love yourself during your self-criticism. Even if it feels awkward or contrived at first, give yourself whatever self-understanding and support you can to become your own inspiring Coach.
Playing with this correction requires some vigilance both to notice your Critic when it shows up and to persevere with changing it. This blog and other reminders are very helpful. It is not so much that the ideas are new, but that we forget to do these simple practices. Rather than expecting to notice and remember every time, anticipate becoming distracted and forgetting. What might be some reminders that would help you remember to be self-compassionate? Some people leave themselves notes, some find journaling exercises a useful tool, or you may have some religious images that might help. Personally, I find images of Buddha to be very useful reminders to be mindful and self-compassionate.
One of the things to keep in mind here is that you are changing a long held habit. As with any other habit, you have to notice that you are doing it, stop, and then replace it with a more desirable behavior. And you have to do that again and again until you have a new habit. The sooner you start and the more persistent you are, the sooner you will have an inspiring Inner Coach rather than an Inner Critic.
If you are ready to transform your Inner Critic into an Inner Coach, buy my workbook of the same title or contact me for some personal coaching!