If you wouldn't say it to others, don't say it to yourself

Critic or coach?

Listen to yourself. How do you speak to, and about, yourself?

Many people would find themselves alone and friendless if they spoke to others the same way they speak to themselves.

In listening to others, as self-deprecating remarks weave their way into conversation, the voice of the harsh self-critic makes itself known. That makes me cringe. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.

I used to believe I had to be self-critical to grow, evolve and make positive change. I was wrong.

Having the ability to take stock and determine areas where we want to change or grow is helpful, but it’s important to notice when negative self-talk and the voice of the nasty critic enter in.

This critic isn’t helpful in creating lasting change in our lives. We can only bully ourselves into change for so long. The trail of failed resolutions is a result of a self-bullying mentality.

Negative self-talk engages the fight-or-flight response in our brains and bodies.

Our brains aren’t able to create new and lasting habits when the stress response is engaged. Research shows we don’t learn or create lasting change when we’ve bullied ourselves with a critical voice. This is one reason we fail when we try to bully or shame ourselves into making changes.

We learn best in an atmosphere of safety and self-compassion. I’ve learned best when my teachers created an atmosphere of caring and safety for me to learn and even make mistakes. My best teachers had compassion.

According to Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, an attitude of self-compassion is an important ingredient to positive change.

Self-compassion is not putting on blinders. Being compassionate with ourselves doesn’t rob us of motivation. Self-kindness helps us to see even challenging situations in our lives more clearly. Becoming a compassionate coach rather than a chastising faultfinder supports our success.

I once had a large, internal committee of critics. I gave this committee a name I can’t mention here.

If I’d met such people in my life, I’d never hang out with them. My committee were extremely unkind, yet I used to entertain them for long periods of time. Not only would I invite them in, but often I’d stay awake all night listening to them.

It never felt good, but it was my habit of mind.

Repetitive thoughts are just old, well-practiced neural pathways. They’re like ruts in a well-travelled road. We can get stuck in the ruts that take us to the same old places we’ve always travelled. When we have a habit of thinking negative thoughts about ourselves it becomes the default mode.

We can make new habits of thought. Stopping and noticing what we’re thinking and what we’re saying to ourselves is key.

I’ve long used an exercise that was helpful in changing the inner-critic to a compassionate coach. I call it Becoming Your Own Best-Friend.

1. When you become aware of negative self-talk rolling through your brain, stop. Stop and notice how it feels. Get curious about where that voice comes from.

2. Don’t believe everything you think. You are not your thoughts. Just because you had a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.

3. Once you catch yourself being self-abusive, ask yourself what you’d say to your own best-friend or someone you love on the same topic. Would you tell them they’re lazy, stupid, fat, or a failure? Would you chew them out by reminding them of every time they’ve failed in the past? I doubt it.

4. Instead, offer yourself the same compassion and advice you’d offer to someone you care about.

According to psychologist, Elizabeth Scott, positive and motivational self-talk is the greater predictor of success. This means we do better when we encourage ourselves kindly.

Consider becoming your own best friend. Consider being compassionate toward yourself, wanting the very best for yourself. Consider how you’d coach or support your best friend, and then do the same for yourself.

Encourage yourself. Do not berate yourself.

Fire your internal committee of critics and becoming a compassionate coach with yourself. Develop self-compassion and engage what science is finding when it comes to creating lasting and positive change in your life.

Self-compassion and kindness are key to positive change.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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