Compassion and the Critic

Sometimes we can be harder on ourselves than we need to be. We all have an inner critic, and chances are we’ve given this critic more power than it deserves. This critic can have a voice like our own or like someone important to us who has judged us harshly. Whatever it sounds like, this inner critic rarely gives us the benefit of the doubt that we are doing the best we can with what we have to work with.

We all have parts of our lives that we feel we need to improve, whether it is a sticky situation we are in or in how we react to others. But we can sometimes spend all our energy on criticizing ourselves for not being where we want to be, leaving no room left for moving in the direction we feel we need to go.  We are spending all day at the base camp insulting ourselves ourselves for not being at the mountain peak already. This criticism crushes us and leaves no energy left for action. So we get stuck in a cycle where we criticize, which makes us feel defeated, which leads to inaction, which makes us criticize ourselves again for inaction.

It is important, then, that we approach these issues in a manner that fosters growth rather than beats us down. If we allow ourselves to accept ourselves for who we are at this moment, regardless of whatever faults we may be aware of, we are at the starting point to real progress. The critic is only powerful if we listen to it.

If we are able to give ourselves some grace and compassion and can feel okay with who we are, we can make it a lot easier to get where we want to be. We are on the path to our goals and it’s okay that we aren’t there yet or that maybe we’re moving a bit slower than we’d like. Even if we fail sometimes, it does not make us a failure. It just makes us normal. We are on the journey, but we’re not there yet. And that’s okay.

For anyone dealing with self-criticism (which, to be honest, is pretty much everyone), I highly recommend Kristen Neff’s book Self-Compassion, which can be found here.