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Awareness and self-compassion during tough moments

Updated: Mar 12

Have you ever been swept away by your anger, sadness or any of those emotions labelled as "bad"? At times it feels like it's so much easier to simply lose the plot, to let everything out. However, when we step away, and take a breath, remorse sets in. This has happened to me many times and when they do, guilt sets in, then shame follows. We often feel bad for hurting others, and we also end up feeling bad about ourselves.

This happens to all of us. Never think that you're alone. I believe that all of us would like to be more loving and understanding to others and ourselves. However, it is sometimes challenging to connect with that gentle voice within when we've been so hard on ourselves all our lives.

There's an increasing body of research that shows the connection between our inner critic and a range of difficulties - self-criticism (i.e., the inadequate self and the hated self) is linked to depression. Other studies highlight that having a harsh inner voice is also linked to tension and anxiety, as well as bingeing on food, self-inflicted injuries, thinking about suicide, and lower relationship health with a romantic partner.

How can we be-friend our inner critic?

The very first step we all must take is to acknowledge our humanity which means that we will feel different types of emotion, we will make mistakes, we are perfectly imperfect. As you recognise your thoughts and emotions you can start naming it - "I am feeling upset.", "I am feeling sad.", "I am experiencing, love.". Then from this space of acknowledgement you can start to investigate, and become more curious - what is this thought, feeling, or emotion trying to convey? Where do you feel it in our body? When we are curious, we move away from reactivity and judgement. There are many studies around the power of mindfulness and self-compassion as a way to shift from reactivity to responsiveness

From this space of awareness, you can start to nurture yourself.

You can start by reconnecting to your body. If you're noticing tension in your body, notice where you're feeling it. Noticing its quality. Perhaps you can shift your attention to your breath. Feeling your breathing body. Allowing your gentle breaths to be your home base when you notice interruptions.

You can also write and journal, speak to a dear friend who would listen, or seek help from a counsellor or therapist. Find ways to tend to yourself.

You may not have the all the answers you're seeking; the emotions and thoughts might still be there. However, you've already taken a step back from reactivity as you've responded in a different way and have embraced a completely different mindset.

Another way we can nurture our inner critic would be to practice radical self-compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff, pioneer of Self-Compassion research identified 3 key elements of self-compassion:

  • Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment: Being tender with yourself vs being critical

  • Common humanity vs. Isolation: You are not alone. Others are experiencing suffering as well.

  • Mindfulness vs. Over-identification: Present moment awareness, a sense of being the observer where there's a sense of openness. When we over-identify, we get lost in what we think is true. There's a rigidity to over-identification and it keeps us hooked.

You can think about the cultivation of mindfulness and self-compassion as a skill. Therefore, it's something that you can strengthen in your life. Through your yoga practice you're presented with the opportunity to nurture the voice within.

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