After 20 years of counseling individuals and couples, as well as doing my own inner work, I’ve come to believe that perhaps our greatest life lesson is learning how to fully accept and love ourselves. We must learn to turn down the volume of our Inner Critic, the voice in our head that speaks to us as nobody should and in ways we would probably never speak to another. We must instead choose to become our own best friend, good parent, and compassionate advocate as we move through our unique journey of recovery and self-actualization.
Please take a moment to reflect about how you treat yourself daily as if you were another person, in a relationship with you. Are you good to yourself? Is your mind kind to your body and soul?
In my practice and my own psycho-spiritual journey, I see that as part of the human condition there are times that we all:
- Beat ourselves up with cruel self-talk
- Set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations
- Deprive ourselves of things we deserve through self-sabotaging behaviors
- Abuse our bodies through neglect or harmful choices
These behaviors wreak havoc on our mental and physical health, our relationships, and our careers. We must choose a different path. The following are four tips to learn to treat yourself with the loving kindness you deserve:
- Identify & unplug from your Inner Critic.
a. You know that harsh, judgmental voice in your head? That is not you. That is your Inner Critic, a combination of voices from the past (perhaps parents, religious teaching, cultural expectations, etc.) and perceived expectations that tell you how you “should” be. The Inner Critic is an aspect of the ego, the false sense of self developed by the mind.
b.You are not your Inner Critic or your ego, you are the spirit of light and love that lies deep within you. Learn to connect with that authentic, inner self and observe your Inner Critic from a place of neutrality, separation and detachment. This can be achieved through mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga, which is meditation with movement.
c. While hanging onto your moral compass, notice your Inner Critic and consciously choose to separate yourself from it, for it is not serving you.
2. Practice self-compassion and forgiveness.
a. Instead of viewing yourself from a place of judgement, shift to empathy. Understand that the way you are (emotionally, physically, relationally, etc.) is a normal response to your nature and your nurture. Extend yourself the same compassion you so easily show others.
b. Know that our challenges are opportunities for growth and learning. Understand life is a process–an evolution of self. All is exactly as it should be.
c. Honor your feelings and learn to “surf” them as waves, rather than becoming engulfed by them. This can be done by developing awareness of feelings in the body and learning to breathe them out or release them through movement, writing, talking, journaling or handing them over to your “higher power” in a moment of prayer or reflection.
d. Because resentment keeps us tethered to the past, free yourself by forgiving yourself and others for any wrongdoings. This can be done by thanking yourself or others who have harmed you for the lessons and blessings in the experience, wishing them well and releasing yourself from those binds.
- Develop resiliency by detaching from perfectionism.
a. Learn to cut yourself some slack and acknowledge setbacks such as relapses or “mistakes” as a normal aspect of the road to recovery. Look at the good parts by practicing gratitude.
b. Stop obsessing about the past or worrying about the future by bringing your attention to the present moment, where peace can be found. This can be achieved by bringing your attention to the breath.
c. Practice the power of mantra and in a moment of reflection, repeat sentiments such, “I am a human being and I am doing the best that I can” or “I am not my issues, I am the perfectly divine self that lies within.”
- Practice self-love.
a. Speak to yourself with kindness, compassion and support.
b. Take care of yourself with care and concern with regard to sleep, nutrition, exercise, and promoting leisure, fun, connection and work/life balance.
c. Advocate for yourself at home and at work the way that you would somebody you love very much with communication that is assertive and clear, demonstrating respect for self and others.
d. Access support through positive friends and family, counseling, therapy, 12-step support and spiritual practices.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha
By Joyce Marter, LCPC, VP of Marketing and PR at Refresh Mental Health