I used to take pride in the fact that I was my toughest critic — nobody is harder on me than I am on myself.
Over the past several years I’ve met many people in this camp, and many of my clients also share this mindset.
Perhaps you can relate.
You entrained a pattern of trigger and response — a habit — that worked to produce certain results.
Culturally, we buy into the myth that self-criticism is the key to self-improvement and peak performance.
This pattern can be so engrained that rather than wait for someone else to inflict the pain that produces the results, we inflict it on ourselves.
How often do you stop and ask: is this still working?
Self-Criticism is Self-Sabotage
It turns out that self-critical approach actually doesn’t work.
Research by Kristin Neff has proven that –self-compassion is more effective than self-criticism in attaining peak performance.
Self-criticism is self-sabotage. It zaps our energy and damages our well-being, hurting productivity and performance.
What is Self-Compassion?
Compassion literally means “to suffer with.”
Self-compassion is treating yourself as you would treat a friend who is going through a rough time.
According to Neff, the first step of self-compassion is to notice and acknowledge that you are suffering.
Suffering may mean that you are having a difficult time, struggling in some area, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. You may be in physical or emotional pain.
To exercise self-compassion, we must first acknowledge that we are going through a difficult experience.
How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
At the heart of self-compassion is to offer understanding and kindness to yourself when you fail or make mistakes, rather than judging yourself harshly.
Finally, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. It means you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.
Self-Compassion Isn’t Easy
The steps to self-compassion sound easy, and we are often good and finding compassion for others, but don’t be fooled. This is hard work.
Some of us have deeply embedded inner critics, and we have trained ourselves for years in the habits of achieving results through self-criticism.
Our inner critics are simply looking out for us, they want to protect us. Recognizing this is a crucial step to allowing the inner critic to ease up so that compassion can take over.
The path of self-compassion is a journey of a lifetime. When you forget, and find yourself in a self-criticism spiral, remember that this is a good place to practice your self-compassion.