Most of us are so hard on ourselves! Harsh, angry, self-condemning thoughts pop into our heads at the slightest provocation, and we often push ourselves so ruthlessly. And when we hear about practicing more compassion for ourselves, we can sometimes turn that lovely concept into yet another occasion for self-bashing: ďOh, here I go, being hard on myself again! I really messed up!Ē
Here is a wise antidote to being so darned hard on ourselves. We intend to take it to heart. We hope you will, too!
Every part of us deserves gentle self-acceptance and compassion, especially the parts of us that we think need and deserve it least! Think of it this way: We would never talk to a friend the way we often talk to ourselves–we would be much more understanding and forgiving.
It can be helpful to imagine what we would say to a friend in a given situation, and then saying it to ourselves.
And here is a simple exercise to practice:
When you catch yourself being hard on yourself, do something different: Be gentle to yourself. Take a long, slow breath and relax your body. Relax your arms, shoulders, and chest. Then relax your face, soften your eyes. Realize that if youíre attacking yourself this hard, it canít be the real truth. If you are feeling regretful for some past action, remember that part of you must have had a very good reason for acting as you did. Imagine how you would respond to a friend who had done something similar. Notice any new feelings (possibly sadness) that come up when you are gentle to yourself. Write them down, if you wish.
Inspired by I Know Iím in There Somewhere, by Helene G. Brenner (Gotham Books, 2003).