Becoming mindful of negative self-talk can begin a process of healing within you that will not only mend your own broken heart but make you more compassionate and more understanding of the same kind of suffering in others.
A lot of us grew up in a setting (maybe more than one) where being punished, criticized or threatened was used a lot to intimidate us into changing the way we thought, felt or acted. Parents, teachers, bosses, even religious settings sometimes still buy into a well-entrenched belief that this is the most effective method to get people to behave differently. But if you consider the amount of suffering caused by criticism and then, of course, self criticism, is it really all that effective?
Yes and no. It does work, but such a heavy price is paid that it’s time to re-examine and replace what motivates us. So many of us have internalized this technique and still inflict pain on ourselves; just listen to the self talk when you think you’ve done something wrong or it’s not good enough. Ouch!
Whether it’s a new year or a new moment, the first step towards healing yourself through self compassion is to notice when you’re using self criticism to “motivate” yourself to do better or be better. When you hear those mean-spirited voices in your head or actually hear yourself saying things about yourself out loud, it won’t be hard to notice that it hurts.
What would your best friend, your mentor or teacher or Wise Self suggest as an infinitely more compassionate motivation to heal and restore your essential well being? Love? Your own happiness? A sense of fulfillment or authentic self expression? Being hard on yourself may be chronic but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Realize that back then, you were an innocent, absorbing the consequences, and perpetuating this harmful response so that you could protect yourself from further pain and suffering.
Let today be the day you begin to heal yourself by choosing understanding and kindness. When you catch that negative self talk, notice how and where it hurts. You might even find it helpful to put your hand over your heart and take a deep, cleansing breath as you give yourself compassion for what you’ve been through. Then, offer yourself a more supportive form of self talk, one which brings out the best in you.