Be Kinder to Yourself with Mindfulness

We all struggle with our own inner critic.  You know, that harsh, judgmental voice inside you that exclaims, “you’re not good enough” or “you’re stupid” or “you can’t do anything right.” This negative self-talk echoes the voices of people in your life who knowingly or unknowingly put you down, such as family members, peers, and teachers.

Although you probably developed this inner, critical voice to help you avoid pain and shame, its constant nagging can hold you captive in a web of negative thinking.  These negative thoughts can lead to all sorts of problems in your life, including low self-worth, social anxiety, eating disorders, panic attacks, and depression.

So, how can you turn this tumultuous, inner environment into a peaceful, calm space? One word—mindfulness.  One of the benefits of mindfulness meditation is the capacity it creates for you to objectively observe, and then change your deeply ingrained mental patterns.   Here’s how:

(1) Simply notice and observe your negative self-talk and see it for what it is—thoughts that are just a point-of-view and not necessarily true;

(2) Reframe the observations made by your inner critic in a positive way by imagining what a compassionate friend would say to you in this situation. For example, respond to “I shouldn’t feel this way” with “It’s okay to feel down or nervous sometimes, because it’s temporary and it doesn’t define who I am”;

(3) Redirect your attention to the present moment and practice self-compassion with the following variation of loving-kindness meditation by Deborah Christensen:

Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. With each breath, acknowledge your shared humanity by repeating the mantra: I am not alone.

Allow your breathing to resume its natural depth and rhythm as you imagine yourself talking to a good friend, someone you know as well as yourself. Reach over and take your friend (yourself) by the hand (if you wish, place your right hand over your left).

For the next minute or more, offer your friend compassion with the following mantra.

“You are not alone. You are enough. I am here for you.”

When you feel ready, change the mantra to:

“I am not alone. I am enough. I accept the gift of self-compassion and love.”

When you are ready, conclude the meditation with three deep breaths and open your eyes.

After practicing this exercise for yourself, you are on your way to slowly but surely being kinder to yourself through the practice of mindfulness.  To find out more about our therapists who specialize in mindfulness, click here.