It’s no secret that you’re a multidimensional human.
It would be impossible to put you into a single box, describe you in a single word, or expect you to be the same forever. Heck, it would be impossible to expect you to be the same every hour for a single day!
I want you to hold this truth central as we talk about self-compassion today.
A few weeks ago, I shared that one of the most essential practices in the past decade of my life has been (and continues to be) self-compassion. Without a doubt, it has changed how I relate to myself and experience the world.
Self-compassion is the “what.”
Today, I want to go deeper into that with you and talk about the “how.”
Because, if you’re like the hundreds of women who I’ve worked with over the years, I know self-compassion can feel fake, uncomfortable, or awkward.
It did for me, too, until I developed this simple way of envisioning the voice of self-compassion that I’m about to share with you today. A way of visualizing my inner dialogue that has made self-compassion feel more authentic and natural.
You’re a multidimensional, so naturally your inner dialogue is multidimensional, too.
To start, I’d love you to imagine three unique, distinct inner voices:
- The inner child
- The inner critic (aka your inner mean girl)
- The inner mother (aka the voice of self compassion)
Every single one of these voices is part of you.
Every single one of these voices desires to be heard and validated.
Every single one of these voices is fueled by a positive intention. Yes, even your inner critic!
Typically your inner critic or “mean girl” developed early on in your life out of some form of self protection. That voice inside you started speaking to you in this critical way for a “really good reason.”
Some common “really good reasons” that our inner dialogue turns critical include:
- An attempt to protect you from the experience of failure
- A deep desire to belong / fit in
- Deterring you from trying new things because the risks feel unknown + scary
- Pushing you towards perfection, because there is an internalized belief that it will help you to be safe, loved, accepted
- Self-criticism so that external criticism doesn’t feel as painful since you’ve already experienced it from yourself first
- An effort to “push” you to be enough (so you can feel safe, loved, accepted)
Practicing self compassion is NOT about shutting down your inner mean girl. Rather than trying to silence your inner critic, I’d love you to connect with her.
This part of you that is being so hurtful is trying to protect another part of you who has experienced hurt — your inner child.
She may be afraid of rejection or failure. She may feel unloved or unappreciated. She may have felt silenced or ignored in the past. She may have been criticized or made fun of.
Even your sometimes mean and nasty inner critic has a positive intention. This is not to say that it doesn’t cause you harm or isn’t holding you back or keeping you stuck in negative patterns, of course. I would never want to minimize that. But your inner critic is a part of you that DEEPLY desires to feel seen and heard. Simply trying to “reframe” it away or silence it will not change the internal dialogue.
Instead, can you be here with her?
If your inner child was hurt or wounded in some way (as most all of us have experienced), the inner critic can develop in response to those experiences. That part of you that is hurting you with judgmental and punishing words is acting from a place of self protection.
What is she afraid you might lose? What is she trying to protect you from? What is most important to her? What does she need to feel safe? What does she deeply desire? What is the “really good reason” or the “positive intention” behind the fear, judgment, criticism, comparison, guilt, shame, blame?
Connecting with your inner child (your sense of self that developed during childhood) can also help you to connect with your inner critic. Because understanding what hurt(s) your inner child can help you to understand what your inner critic is working so hard to try to protect you from.
Now, it’s time for self-compassion.
Self-compassion is the act of offering yourself kindness and understanding.
Dr. Kristen Neff (the leading self-compassion expert) describes self-compassion as having three main elements:
- Self kindness (in place of self judgment): accepts the reality that you cannot be perfect and offers yourself warmth and gentleness in a tough or challenging moment
- Common humanity (rather than isolation): understanding that suffering is part of the shared human experience and you’re not alone in what you’re going through
- Mindfulness (instead of over-identification): acknowledges how you feel and what you’re experiencing without letting it define you
Self-compassion allows you to accept, acknowledge, and honor your humanness; to care for and comfort yourself when you need it; and to grow in meaningful ways… not because you are lacking or are not already enough, but from a place of deep self-acceptance and love.
The benefits of self-compassion are HUGE, including (but not limited to) decreased stress, increased inner strength + resilience, more happiness, greater overall feelings of wellbeing, connection to wisdom (hey there, intuition!), and increased ability to learn new things and experience growth.
Think about her as the voice of your inner mother. The wise part of you who can hold space for the inner critic’s fear and the inner child’s hurt and can offer you understanding, connection, and kindness in a challenging moment. That voice inside that whispers,
“You’re not alone. I know this is hard. I’m here to help you get through it.”
How much different does self-compassion feel for you now?