I’m taking a break from writing my dissertation proposal in order to share some life altering thoughts with ya’ll. Well, its been life altering for me…maybe everyone else has this all figured out already.
I’m currently taking a class (not school related….I know crazy, right?) called, “Mindful Self-Compassion” with the amazing Kristin Neff, a Human Development faculty member at UT, author, and Buddhist practitioner. I signed up for the 8 week workshop because self-compassion is somewhat new territory for me. About 2 years ago, I started realizing how hard I’ve been on myself for the last 20 years. I’m clear that my drive to work hard, challenge myself, and the ability to focus and complete goals in life have made me incredibly successful and up to BIG things in life. However, 2 years ago I realized that much of my internal dialogue was being dominated by my inner critic and not self compassion, love for myself, and joy. My inner critic tends to tell me things like, “you’re a fraud, you don’t work hard enough, its just a matter of time before people figure out that you don’t know what the f#ck you’re doing, you’re behind in everything in life…”. Pretty awesome, right?
Last night we did an exercise that involved not just giving ourselves self-compassion but also giving compassion to our inner critic. This was really difficult for me and it also took me a bit of time to wrap my head around this concept. For the past 2 years I’ve been so aware and observant of the critical voice in my head. I’m clear about when it fills my thoughts. I simply observe it, and wait for it to get tired and quiet down, and then go back to my usual optimistic, loving Self.
I’ve never considered that my little inner critic is actually there for a reason. It really wants me to survive, it just doesn’t communicate in an effective way! We discussed last night that our inner critic pipes up because there’s a threat or danger it senses. For example, if there’s a paper I need to write but I’m not in action to complete it, my inner critic wakes up from its slumber to get my ass in gear as the deadline approaches. The problem, is that it doesn’t stop there. It continues to chatter in my head, filling me with insecurity and negative self talk.
One woman in the group last night shared that she views her inner critic like a small child having a tantrum. Viewing the critical thoughts in that light really shifted my perspective. It has allowed me to give that little inner child some compassion, thank it for identifying the problem, situation, or threat that potentially lies ahead of me, allow it to vent its voice, and then slowly let it dissipate.
We all have a shadow side and a light side. This internal dichotomy of Self is what makes us who we are. Here’s to giving every part of ourselves self-compassion, love, and light!