As a mental health therapist frequently working with clients suffering from high anxiety and heavy depression, I am often discussing the subject of self-talk. With all of the messages we receive daily from ads telling us that we are not enough and that we need the product advertised in order to feel good, in addition to the picture-perfect images displayed on social media to compare our messy, real lives to, it’s no wonder that people are trained into comparison, negative thinking and feeling as if they are the only ones who feel the way they feel.
These critical thinking patterns reels of negative self-talk are not motivating us to become better people; they are just making us feel awful.
Because of these messages that we are not good enough, we can fall into a cycle of fearing that we are not worthy of love and happiness, striving to perform perfectly in order to earn approval, feeling bad and beating ourselves up when we cannot meet impossible expectations, and then isolating and believing that there is something wrong with us or that no one could ever understand.
This is no way to live. And it’s way more common that one would hope.
We must learn to recognize what we are experiencing, remember that we are not the only ones who have felt this way, and then practice redirecting our self-talk to a kinder, gentler conversation in order to feel better about ourselves.
In speaking about the inner critic, Kristen Neff, author of the book Self-Compassion, points out that we can fall into a habit of criticizing ourselves because at times, it can feel better to identify with the critic than to be the one who screwed up. She also tells us how we can begin facing our fears and changing our self-talk by learning and using the 3 elements of self-compassion:
- Mindfulness- First, we must be able to recognize when we are in pain or suffering and name what we are feeling to calm the alarm center in the brain. If we can become aware of what we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel it, we can move forward from there.
- Common Humanity- Next, we must acknowledge our own vulnerability as a human who feels and remind ourselves that every one struggles at some point in their journey. We are not the only one who has ever felt what we are feeling or experienced difficulty. If we can reach out and share our experience, we will often find that others understand.
- Self-Kindness- Finally, we can help ourselves to feel better by treating ourselves as we would treat a friend who is experiencing difficulty. We must work to use kind and compassionate self-talk, recognizing that all hurt matters and that judgment only exacerbates the pain.
We can apply these steps during any moment of pain- no matter how big or small- to begin to create a habit of self-compassion. When we are experiencing pain and difficulty in our lives, and we give into the habit of numbing ourselves from the feeling it, telling ourselves that no one else feels the way we do, and beating ourselves up for not being able to handle it with Facebook-post-appropriate grace, we are only setting ourselves up for more even pain for longer periods of time.
So, give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? You go through something painful without beating yourself down even more? You begin to feel better about yourself over time? You are able to feel compassion for others who are going through tough times? Yup, worth giving it a try.
If you need someone to chat with about the process, give me a ring. I will be trying right along next to you.
Chat again soon,