How I learned to be kinder to myself, and how it's changed my life. Plus resources for those who, like me, struggle with self-flagellation.
I’ve had that critical voice in my head for as long as I can remember. I’ve done a lot of work to change my relationship to it, how I react to it, interpret it. I’ve had some definite progress, but I also feel that self-compassion will be a lifelong challenge, not a thing I’ll just overcome and get past one day.
I remember a quote from Liz Gilbert, who I’m deeply inspired by, which went like this: “Universal compassion is not universal if it doesn’t include you.” I was struck by it, because I definitely find it easier to be compassionate and understanding of others versus myself.
Yet, like most things, knowing all this doesn’t quiet the voice. My best tactic seems to be to laugh at its silliness. The way my voice will tell me one thing and then criticize it in the opposite way, one can only laugh at its ridiculousness sometimes 😅
I look forward to your newsletters so much! Thank you for making this effort for us.
I was raised in a stern religious tradition so my earliest childhood memories include a highly critical, shaming inner voice. I was critical of other people and then my inner voice would scold me for being unkind and judgmental. It was an exhausting cycle! When I started therapy in middle age and began working at gentling my inner voice, I was amazed to discover how quickly and easily the judgmentalism fell away. You really can’t be kind to other people while beating up yourself.
I’m always surprised to hear that some people don’t have an inner voice! Mine has always been so strong lol.
I feel like my ability to have self compassion has definitely gotten easier with age. There’s this magical thing that has happened to all my women friends once we’ve all hit our 40’s, we care so much less about what society demands of women and just focus on what we want to be and who we really are. I think there’s so much less for us to criticize when we are living our truth. 🥰
Thank you, Sarai!
Another book you might find helpful, as I did, is "Try Softer" by Aundi Kolber.
Have you looked into the Enneagram? I wonder if you are a Type 1, like me; this type wants to get things just right, and deals with a very strong inner critic.
Thank you for the article, Sarai and for talking about compassion. It is a tough topic to broach in public, thanks for taking the leap! I was introduced to compassion a few years ago, through Karen Armstrong and her book 12 Steps to Compassion. It was a revelation that I could use it as the base of my management style and it has made work so much more enjoyable! Of the 12 steps, I feel like self-compassion is the most difficult to attain. I view it like nirvana, it is my life's goal to work towards it (which, now that I think about it, shows self-compassion!).
Now that I know my inner voice can have character, I hope it will take on personality and entertain me endlessly! I love the idea that debating personal values can be a process of observation, rather than self flagellation!
I won’t be surprised if cousin B doesn’t now become a little aware of another voice rattling around in there like a loose chain on a school bus tire in winter.