For many of us, it’s usually easier to feel compassion for others. It often feels much more difficult to practice kindness toward ourselves. However, compassionate self-talk helps to promote personal growth and development. Where harsh self-talk is blaming, ignores the self and prevents change, compassionate self-talk is loving, understanding, and promotes change and personal growth.
Compassionate self-talk approaches the issue with kindness and curiosity. Say you are trying to eat more nutritious foods and just in general to consume more mindfully when it comes to your nourishment. Perhaps it’s been somewhat of a struggle and you are finding it tough to make good choices and stay consistent. You are actively engaged in improving this area but you recently had a really bad day in terms of food choices and being mindful.
An example of harsh self-talk might sound like:
“You always do this, when are you going to get it right?” “Why can’t you just get it together when it comes to your health?”
Compassionate self-talk sounds like:
“I know eating nutritious foods and being mindful of my consumption will help me to be at my best, but I’ve been off track lately. There must be reason. Maybe it’s because I’m upset about the recent argument I had with my sister this week and all of the stress I’ve been dealing with at work. Next time, when I feel the urge to deny myself of healthy nourishment, I’ll try to prevent it by looking at the motivation list I wrote in my journal to remind me why this is so important to me.”
Ways to Increase Compassion:
If this is really different from your typical self-talk, just try noticing what you say to yourself over this next week.
When you notice harsh self-talk…
“If I were really listening to my deepest needs, what would I say to myself?”
(adapted from Seeking Safety manual by Lisa Najavits)
- Try to explore the reasons underlying your behaviors
- For example, if you didn’t follow through on a small promise to yourself, maybe it’s because you were in a lot of pain. If you blew a job interview, maybe it’s because you need more help and practice.
- Use kinder language
- Find a more gentle way of talking to yourself. For example: “I’ll never be able to change” is harsh, while “Change is a process and I have been engaging in my own healing journey and personal development” is kinder.
- Imagine that you are talking to a young child who has made a mistake
- How would you talk to the child with compassion? For example, you might say: “It’s okay. We all make mistakes sometimes. You’re a good person and you can keep figuring it out.”
- Experiment with compassion
- Even if just for a few minutes. If it feels very difficult, you might try thought stopping as a first step: Say “stop thinking that!” loudly to yourself to break the cycle of harsh self-talk. Then try compassion.
- Try practicing! In the following situations, how could you talk to yourself more compassionately?
- You just got ghosted after going out with someone you really liked.
- You had a bad argument in an important relationship and you’re feeling really angry.
- You feel like coping in unhealthy ways because you feel lonely.
- Your best friend gave you some tough but honest feedback that felt hard to hear.
Start small and see how it goes.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” -Buddha
Thinking about starting therapy? I’d love to help with that! Contact me for a free 15-minute consultation at 917.708.7088