Are you always being kind, loving and understanding? Or do you criticize yourself a lot? Tell yourself you can't do something, that you're stupid or that you're not good enough? Chances are, you wouldn't say those things to a friend or someone close. A lot of us though, don't have a problem with being unkind and even nasty to ourselves. To change that, you need to be mindful of your self-talk.
To be mindful of your self-talk means observing your thoughts and feelings, without judgment. It means to step "out" of your thinking process and direct your attention to the present moment. That's where you acknowledge that those self-criticizing thoughts are just that - thoughts.
Pay attention to + acknowledge your thoughts
Until you recognize and acknowledge those negative thoughts and their patterns, you might not even be aware they actually exist. They're often repetitive and pretty much always unproductive. I've had these self-berating thoughts going through my head ever since I remember. I never thought of it as neither a negative or a positive thing; I just thought it was normal, or that it's just the way I am. Once I recognized that those self-critical thoughts don't serve me at all, I started paying attention to where they came from. You might find that those negative thoughts come from - fear of failure, fear of your past, not being good enough. Ask yourself: "what am I afraid of?" or "How do I attack myself?"
When you notice and acknowledge those habitual patterns, be mindful of them. When you're being mindful of them, you simply observe them. So, when you think "I'm not good enough" or "I can't do this, I give up" you recognize that it's just a thought: "I'm having a thought that I'm not good enough," "I'm having a thought that I can't do this, that I want to give up." It's just a thought, not your truth.
Let yourself feel
Mindfulness involves awareness; paying attention to and accepting present moment. Once you've identified those thoughts, allow yourself to feel them. Surrender. It's something you probably often deny yourself. This isn't always easy to do - avoidance is the opposite of mindfulness and whenever you feel pain, you want to bottle it up and suppress it. Resist it. We usually look to distract ourselves from those negative emotions. Avoidance can intensify those negative feelings and it can stop you from learning from your thoughts and emotions.
Learn to be on your own side. Find self-compassion and forgiveness. Self-compassion will help you predict emotional reactions to negative events in your daily life. Research has also proven that high levels of self-compassion are associated with less procrastination and higher motivation.
Something that really changed my perspective was when I started thinking of myself as a child. When I start noticing that my self-talk becomes even slightly negative or limiting, I think "Would I say this to my 8 or 10-year-old self?" This really puts things into perspective. You wouldn't tell a little boy or girl that they're a failure or that they're not good enough. You can also try writing down those self-critical thoughts. Look at them and ask yourself "would I say this to a friend?" Meditation is also great tool for finding self-compassion.
Using affirmations can also help you become more mindful of your self-talk as well. Don't deny yourself that love. Whenever you use words "I AM," whatever follows usually feels very powerful. It's what shapes your reality, so why not use it to your advantage? Tell yourself, I AM FEARLESS. I ALLOW MYSELF TO FEEL. I LET GO OF THE PAST.
If you notice yourself being self-critical, try to remember that beating yourself up for making a mistake will only make you feel worse. Don't let self-criticism weigh you down. Accept those feelings and thoughts for what they are and let them go.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Thirteen Thoughts. It has been republished here with permission.