This is something I struggle with personally, and because of that I am constantly looking for new ways to improve the way I speak to myself, or even better eradicate self-judgement all together, now wouldn’t that be nice!
Previously I have written about this and I reread that post in preparation for this one. I touched on many of the mechanisms that can be used for coping with self-judgement. These might get you through the day, but I have since discovered that there are many other ways, to not only cope but to also get to the root of the issue.
Here are the resources I have found and am using to locate the root, dig it up and cut it out!
I listened to this interview with Tim Goodenough and discovered that there is a deeper source to most of the suffering we cause ourselves. I discovered that the voices inside my head, we all have them, might not even be mine! Now this sounds very strange, it is my mind and I am the only one able to think my thoughts, right? Wrong, when the people we love and admire put us down, especially when we are children, we tend to internalise those statements. They can come from our teachers’, parents’ or friends’. These small, seemingly insignificant, statements can build up over time and cause much of the crap that we tell ourselves. When you hear these things from people you look up to you start to find evidence in statements other people make and build a belief based on that.
Now a belief makes the resolution sound daunting, as the word belief has connotations of being “deeply rooted” or “strongly held” and therefore difficult to change. The solace comes from the fact that when you unpack these things you tell yourself you realise they were not your beliefs to begin with! So you can “give them back” as Tim mentions. They were never yours to begin with so why should they continue to ruin your present by rearing their ugly heads? Get to the root of the belief and give it back to whoever gave it to you, it’s not yours anyway!
By reading the article, Write Letters to Heal Pain, Release Anger, Let Go, and Start Living I realised the value of putting these types of things down on paper and externalising what has been rattling around in my brain and tormenting me. Once you have it written down you can almost view it from an outside perspective, rationalise it and digest it. Sometimes you realise just how stupid what you were telling yourself was and you feel released from it right away. Sometimes the pain is more deeply rooted and it takes some work to get to that point. When this is the case you need to dig deep and discover the exact instance that perpetuated the self-doubt. Say, for example, you find it was when a parent said to you “you should do better” that began to define your perception of your abilities and started the negative self-talk of “I’m not good enough”. When you have this moment defined you have to do something that is seemingly tough but essential. You have to forgive them! This is if you still want that person in your life. When there are many other great things they have done for you and the relationship is too valuable to lose or when “giving it back” doesn’t yield the expected results and the pain is still prevalent.
So how do you forgive them?
Practice loving kindness towards that person.
This is a type of meditation where you repeat 5 things you want to bring into your/another’s life (may so and so be happy, for example) Sit, stand or lie down, take slow deep breaths. Recite your wishes, in your mind, paying special attention to the meaning of each word and the intent behind it. Continue until you feel it and are enveloped in loving kindness, I like to visualise what it will be like to for that person to experience that emotion. Do this for the person who has “wronged” you to dispel that angst that is caused by the event or person.
Simply allowing us to be kind to ourselves goes a long way to stop being so hard on ourselves. It is very tough to hate yourself when you have compassion for yourself. To create self-compassion you simply have to be aware and notice suffering. As a side note noticing and dwelling on are very different things. Start to notice when you are causing yourself suffering and have compassion for yourself in that instance. Building compassion for yourself builds your compassion towards other people too. We end up treating people like we treat ourselves, so if we are bitter and twisted inside we will express that in our interactions with others, especially the ones we love. Dr Kristin Neff has an entire site dedicated to the practice of self-compassion; this is the best place to start, in my opinion.
Visualise the specific defining moment how you would have wanted it to be.
For example, you turn in a paper to your favourite teacher, one you have worked hard on, something you are proud of. The teacher, for whatever reason, marks you lower than you believe you deserve and writes ‘not good enough’ in the comments. That moment begins a stream of negative self-talk that we now need to reframe in our minds, into the way we wanted it to happen. The new situation could be that the teacher gave you a fair grade, and acknowledged your effort in the comments with ‘good work, you could do even better next time.’ The reverse of the statement turns the angst into acceptance and anger into fulfilment. If you practice this regularly you can break the negative associations that, that event has and break the cycle of the negative self-talk associated with it.
Being a modern gentleman doesn’t exclude us from our past and what we all suffer as humans. However he is aware of this fact and knows that nothing without hard work and effort can change. He strives to be compassionate towards others and towards himself, because he knows how he wants to be treated and therefore treats others the same.
Have compassion, not pity, love yourself (not that way, don’t be gross) and other’s.