Food for Thought: Unlocking Self-Compassion

“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be”.

– Kristen Neff

That self-critical voice has such authority, doesn’t it? We think “if I just strive to be the person it tells me I should be, then one day I’ll be OK”.

But that day will never come.

The day will never come when that negative voice in our head says “well done, you’re worthy, now you deserve to look after yourself”. Its sole motivation is to make us feel not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not successful enough, not enough, not enough, not enough…

As Kristen Neff says, we believe being hard on ourselves keeps us in line.

In reality, it keeps us in shame.

It keeps us stuck.

Our Inner Bullies don’t want us to have compassion for ourselves. They don’t want us to have a peaceful relationship with food. They don’t want us to look after ourselves physically and emotionally.

Why listen to someone who doesn’t have our best interests at heart?

We can hold ourselves accountable without putting ourselves down. We can take personal responsibility without shaming ourselves. We can find motivation without tormenting ourselves.

If we want life to be better, we need self-care not self-hatred. We need to listen to the voice that says self-compassion isn’t self-indulgent, it’s survival.

But it’s hard, you might say, that critical voice has always been there.

What could be harder than surrendering to it? Surely, life is so very much harder when we’re stuck in shame and self-loathing?

By contrast, life is so much better when we find the inner strength to answer back to the critical voice within; when we choose to defend ourselves; when we decide to say “Enough! No more. You have nothing to offer me. I refuse to listen to you”.

Then we can unlock the door to self-compassion, and the relationship with ourselves we deserve.

©️ Julie de Rohan 2019.

28 thoughts on “Food for Thought: Unlocking Self-Compassion

  1. I used to be my own worst critic. There was no one that could say or do anything towards me that was as bad as I was to myself in the past. Now….with growing older and health hiccups, I treat myself better than I have in the past. I believe I worried that in caring well for myself, I’d be perceived as selfish or self absorbed. Again….with age, I don’t really give a hoot what others think of me or my choices. I am now selfish….in caring for myself and in doing so, I have found an inner peace and joy, that ironically projects onto others. Thank you for this post Julie!

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    1. You’re so welcome, Erin. It’s great to hear how you’ve moved from a place of being self-critical to one of self-compassion and what that’s brought you – “inner peace and joy” – and how that impacts others. I really appreciate you sharing your experience, I think it’s important that others know it’s possible to make the shift. Many thanks for sharing your experience.

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  2. Another terrific post, Julie. It’s so true that we not only listen, but give credence to, the negative voice in us – but rarely do that to any positive voice. And then everything is so much harder. As you rightly point out, it all comes down to our own decision as to whether to listen to the negativity or simply choose a different path. Great post, Lxx

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  3. I’m all about balance. Yes, I think that we do need to criticize ourselves so as to do better, but we also need to acknowledge when we do good. Pushing ourselves to do better shouldn’t be done in a shameful way, but in a constructive way.

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    1. I agree. There’s a big difference between relentlessly criticising ourselves and motivating ourselves in a constructive way. Many thanks for your comment, good to hear your thoughts.

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  4. I’m not sure where we first get that idea, that being so firm and critical with ourselves keep us in line or motivates us or anything of any benefit. Spot on post and a good reminder to watch how we’re talking to ourselves and to be a bit kinder, more constructive, as we would if we were talking to a friend. xx

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    1. It just doesn’t help us, does it? We can still motivate ourselves and push ourselves out of our comfort zone with care, compassion and encouragement. Thanks for giving us your perspective, Caz.

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  5. Very interesting as I believe all your posts are because it’s my favorite topic 😊
    But my question is how to find this thin line between being hard on ourselves and therefore shaming ourselves and being hard on ourselves so we can be better, so we can improve, not procrastinate, change some bad habit…etc.., because we can’t be soft the entire time and accomplish things 🤔
    thank you 😊

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    1. That’s such a good question, Huguette. Often we think we need that harsh, negative, critical side of us to motivate us, otherwise we’d never get anything done. But there’s another, healthier side that wants us to achieve, to develop and to fulfill our potential, but not at the expense of our wellbeing. This side helps us to take personal responsibility and push ourselves out of our comfort zone, but in a way that we feel supported and encouraged, not shamed and criticised. Often this part of us can feel weak in comparison to the critical part, so it’s important to strengthen it with self-awareness and self-care. Many thanks for asking such a thought-provoking question, I hope I’ve answered it satisfactorily!

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