Bullying yourself is not a tactic that works in the long run

Critic or coach

I was horrified by a post from a woman fat-shaming herself publicly.

She called herself horrible names as she invited people to challenge her if they saw her eating in an unhealthy way. It was brutal.

While she may have believed this was the road to a slimmer body, it did not work and I’m not surprised. We may think being hard on ourselves is helpful to create positive change in our lives, but we’re wrong.

While taking stock of ourselves and desiring to make positive change is wonderful, using shame, guilt and negative self-talk isn’t as helpful as we may believe. If we want to create lasting positive change in our lives, catching negative self-talk and noticing the voice of the nasty self-critic, is important.

This self-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 changes is a result of a self-bullying mentality.

Research shows we don’t learn or create lasting change when we’ve bullied ourselves with a critical voice. 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.

According to psychologist, Elizabeth Scott, positive and motivational self-talk is the greater predictor of success. That means we do better when we encourage ourselves kindly. https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-self-talk-and-how-it-affects-us-4161304

Not unlike children and students, we learn and grow 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. https://aeon.co/essays/learning-to-be-kind-to-yourself-has-remarkable-benefits

Self-compassion is not putting on blinders. Self-kindness helps us to see even challenging situations in our lives more clearly. Becoming a compassionate coach rather than chastising faultfinder supports us in being successful.

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 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.

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

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. 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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