Love Thy Self: 5 Practices for the Harsh Inner Critic

Love Thy Self: 5 Practices for the Harsh Inner Critic
With the New Year in full swing, it’s time to reflect on your goals and intentions. You probably started the year with boundless energy and the will to stick to your goals. Yet, if you’re like many others, you may have stumbled off track by this point.

You are not alone. In fact, recent data suggests that nearly half of the United States population makes New Year’s resolutions, and only nine percent of those people actualize their goals. New habits are difficult to form, and being harsh with yourself will not get you back on track. There is plenty of research indicating that self-kindness is a main ingredient for not just overall well-being, but also for following through with your intentions.

And that makes sense. If you’re kind and encouraging to yourself when you mess up, you don’t feel as badly. You can more easily motivate yourself to start again. On the other hand, if you berate and belittle yourself each time you fail, you can feel even worse about yourself. It is a lot more difficult to re-tackle goals when you’re feeling down.

It’s time to silence the inner critic. Here are five simple ways to infuse some self-love into your life:

1. Try a Self-Compassion Meditation

According to leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D., self-compassion has three key components: mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness. She created the brief Self-Compassion Break meditation, which accesses all three parts of self-compassion. Here’s a modified version you can try:

  • Begin by finding a comfortable position that allows you to be relaxed, yet alert. Close your eyes and take a few deep and cleansing breaths.
  • Identify what is troubling you without bringing harsh judgment or ridicule into the equation. Bring up your unmet goal with non-judgmental curiosity and without self-criticism.
  • Next, remember that you are not alone. Find comfort in knowing that many others have been unable to stick to their intentions.
  • Finally, offer yourself kind words. What would you say to your friend who has fallen off track? What words comfort you? It may help to give yourself a squeeze or to place your hands on your heart during this part of the meditation. Soothing touch promotes the release of oxytocin, even when it is your own touch.
  • Close by taking a few more breaths, paying attention to any positive feelings you may notice.
  • Open your eyes, and congratulate yourself for taking time to tend to yourself.

2. Create Affirmations

Research indicates that you need a ratio of roughly three positive emotions to every negative emotion in order to be happy and flourish. In order to create more positive emotions, repeat affirmations that generate joy. Write down a few affirmations that resonate with you, and repeat them each day. Some examples include:

  • “I am enough”
  • “I am full of peace and love”
  • “I am leading a purposeful life”

3. Make a Date with Yourself

Think about the last time you did something you truly enjoyed. Do you love dancing? Drop in on a local dance class. Or maybe a cooking class would light your inner fire.

Author Christine Carter, Ph.D. stresses the importance of downtime in her book, The Sweet Spot. She reminds you that happy people are successful people, and that you are your best, most creative, and most connected self when you create space for play.

4. Flip Your Inner Voice

Take a moment and pay attention to your inner voice. Chances are, you are your harshest critic. What would happen if you spoke to your friends with that same tone of voice? You would most likely be friendless.

See if you can begin to catch yourself when your inner critic speaks up. Instead, try to offer the same words of encouragement and kindness you would offer your friends or loved ones. This one simple mindset shift can profoundly change your life.

Need a reminder to be kind to yourself? Try incorporating one or more of these practices:

  • Write a message of encouragement on your bathroom mirror.
  • Leave an inspirational quote on your dashboard.
  • Wear a self-compassion wristband that reminds you to be your own friend.
  • Keep a self-kindness journal by your bed.

5. Reframe Your Intentions

According to Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., author of The Willpower Instinct, you will have an easier time attaining goals if your intention aligns with your values.

For example, if you’d like to lose 20 pounds this year, saying that you want to be skinny may not motivate you to stick to your guns. Take time to truly contemplate, “Why do I want to lose weight?” Your answer may be that you want to live a long life. Then ask, “Why do I want to live a long life?” Perhaps you want to witness your grandchildren’s lives. As your motivation shifts to align with your values, you are better positioned to stay connected with your intention.

Perhaps by incorporating these practices of self-love, you’ll be able to make this your best year yet. If not, well … be easy on yourself.

Connect with your ability to be nurtured and participate as a co-creator in your own healing journey with the four-part collection Meditations for Healing, with Devi Brown, available in the Chopra App.