Between the worldly and spiritual roadblocks of everyday life, one may find it easy to address these challenges through self-criticism. This is a human tendency: we are always pushed to our limits to succeed, and these external pressures can make us forget to prioritize our internal wellness. As a result, we become too hard on ourselves and easily frustrated with our failures.
But self-criticism doesn’t make us more focused. It doesn’t lead us to a clearer path toward our goals, nor does it push us to become better people. Instead, it clouds our mind and distracts us with negative thoughts and emotions, bogging down our potential. At worst, because energies are infectious, it can bring down other people, too.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is the willingness to find positivity and strength in yourself, especially through tough times. Contrary to popular belief, self-compassion is difficult to achieve. For many, handling difficulties with kindness toward the self is a skill that needs to be learned.
Mindfulness is always highlighted by spirituality practices. It can reprogram the mind to remove harmful habits and emotions that don’t contribute to a positive sense of self. Think of self-criticism as a bad habit—through meditation exercises, it can be replaced by the good habit of self-compassion. When you perform these exercises, find a comfortable position where you can relax. You can sit down in a chair or, if you’re doing them at home, on a yoga mat in the padmasana yoga position. To better ease yourself into meditation, you can apply the calming scent of lavender or jasmine. Here are three easy self-compassion exercises based on those developed by Dr. Kristin Neff.
Grounding yourself to the very moment of your existence is one of the best ways to reflect on your current situation. This all begins with concentrating on yourself and your breathing: observe the way it flows with your heartbeat and physically affects you.
When you practice breathing exercises at the end of the day, it may be difficult to let yourself fully relax, but use that struggle to begin. Identify how you feel, whether that be good or bad. Try to find the sources for these feelings. Once you have a grasp on them, take three deep, slow breaths and allow yourself to let go of any tension. Another tip is to keep a clear quartz nearby so that it can absorb the negative energy. Now, go back to breathing normally. Observe how your breathing affects your body, through your nostrils, your chest, or your abdomen. Enter the steady rhythm of existence until your mind is cleared. Set out to fill every breath with affection and compassion—for others, yourself, and the work you do. At this point, you’ll notice that your mind is wandering, and this awareness is you detaching from the negative feelings and effects of self-criticism. Doing this habitually will help you access the same mode when you go through your everyday life.
This particular exercise is useful when you’re dealing with something that’s specifically causing you stress. It only takes a few minutes, but it can greatly impact your sense of self-compassion. To heighten the effects of this exercise, you can use the assistance of the rose quartz and its propensity for unconditional love.
Focus on the situation that’s currently pushing you to criticize yourself. How does this situation affect you and make you feel? Everything from frustration to anger to discouragement is valid. Hold on to whatever comes to mind and tell yourself, “This is a moment of suffering.”
Acknowledging that these feelings don’t contribute value to yourself is the first step. This way, you can begin to stop them from festering and affecting you or other parts of your life even further.
Next, tell yourself that suffering is a part of life: “I am not alone, and we all struggle.” Recognizing that your hardships aren’t something that only you experience because of your shortcomings is key to self-compassion. It is unavoidable, but you can gather strength from this shared experience.
Lastly, affirm yourself by saying, “May I be kind to myself.” Let those words fill you with relief and push you away from the stress that tempts you toward self-criticism. Understand yourself and your intention for self-consciousness, and it may become a learned habit.
This is a long-term exercise that requires continuous practice and several tries to be impactful. As another method geared toward mindfulness, the first step is recognizing how you act or deal whenever you criticize yourself.
Are there words of phrases that you often use? Do you take on a brash or resentful tone? Getting a sense of how you behave during self-critical moments is compartmental to emotionally confronting the situation.
When you have a grasp of your critical self, begin to talk back to it. Respond to your own words and behavior, but keep in mind that you shouldn't mirror it. In fact, be the exact opposite. This is the version of yourself that needs kindness and compassion the most, so offer yourself understanding and comfort instead.
Now, go back to the observations you made during the first step. Try to revise these observations to seem more positive as an act of forgiving yourself. If you have told yourself, “You are not good enough,” then you can work toward turning this into saying, “You are trying your best, and your effort is worthy of praise.”