We can tend to focus more on our shortcomings or failings than we do our gifts and successes. The old aphorism is true: You can be “your own worst enemy.” Why is that?
Take a few minutes to listen to the thoughts going through your mind. “I’m fat.” “I don’t look good in this outfit.” “I made a stupid mistake.” “Why did I say that?” We are too often harsher with ourselves than we would ever be with a loved one. An important phrase – loved one – for shouldn’t you be your primary loved one?
Recurrent negative thoughts affect our stress responses, thus affecting our body’s well-being. The body responds with inflammation and the mind responds with anxiety and depression.
We are hard-wired to be self-aware, noticing when a mistake is made or when we’re not achieving a goal. How does this escalate into toxic self-criticism?
This is a self-created cycle. You criticize yourself and feel angry or sad, which leads to more thoughts of criticism, which leads to more negative emotion, and the downward spiral has begun.
One way to resolve this pattern is to learn better self-compassion. Be as kind to yourself as you are to a dear friend or family member. Compassion and acceptance of your flaws allows you to disconnect the stress response.
It also helps to learn how to, as we often say, be in the present moment. Right now, right here. Meditation is a wonderful tool for this.
Get out of your head by doing something kind for someone else, or by noticing and deeply appreciating something or someone you love.
Practice gratitude. Learn to feel grateful for all you have and all you are. List the best qualities you carry, and remind yourself of those regularly. List several things you did well today.
Learn acceptance. You made a mistake, or you forgot something. Accept that the situation is what it is, without judgment. Remove emotion from the event.
Most important is to really notice how you feel when you practice these positive behaviors, as opposed to how you feel when you self-criticize. Becoming more aware of the positive emotions creates more of them.