Part of the Turning Inward journey is relearning how to relate to yourself while healing, including showing yourself compassion. This means tuning in to your suffering and being kind, caring and supporting to yourself (as you would be to another).
This is by no means an easy thing to do. Especially when society molds you to be so critical of yourself. You are constantly bombarded with messages from media that you are "not enough," not thin enough, not strong enough, and not healing quickly enough. These thought patterns can become entrenched in your brain as you become your own worst critic and are quick to beat yourself up. However, it's important to remember that this inner critic is part of you too, and he or she deserves your compassion.
This article from Kristin Neff beautifully explains why we need to show compassion to our inner critic, and I highly recommend taking a moment to read it in its entirety. She explains that your inner critic is a piece of you that ultimately wants to help, that you are acting out of concern for yourself. But as you realize what the goals are of your inner critic, I urge you to challenge yourself to change the language your inner critic uses to achieve these goals. Instead of negatively condemning yourself, change your limited thoughts to balanced thoughts and look to find the harmony, peace, and compassion that you deserve, and that will support your healing.
Some of my favorite parts from Neff's article are excerpted below.
We confuse our thoughts and representations of ourselves for our actual selves, meaning that when our self-image is under siege, we react as if our very existence is threatened.
And it's a double whammy because when we criticize ourselves, we are both the attacker and the attacked. This type of chronic stress can eventually lead to anxiety and depression, undermining our physical and emotional wellbeing.
It's tragic because self-criticism makes us feel horrible and doesn't effectively motivate productive change. But if we look closely -- our inner critic cares. There is some safety need it is trying to meet. Our inner critic wants us to be happy, but doesn't know a better way to go about it. Let's say you criticize yourself for not going to the gym, calling yourself a "lazy slob." At some level, your inner critic is reacting out of concern that if you don't go to the gym you won't be healthy, or that you'll be rejected by others. We can be kind and compassionate to this part of ourselves, because at some level it has our best interests at heart. And believe it or not, by giving compassion to our inner critic, we are moving out of the threat defense system and into our other safety system.
Learn to treat your whole self with compassion. Realize your critic is concerned about you, and use that concern to create an action step that supports your forward movement.
What have you beat yourself up about lately? How does your inner critic scold you? What is the real message you wish to send yourself?