For many of us being self-critical seems to come with the territory - we see ourselves as 'high performers' and are constantly looking for paths to better ourselves. But a while ago that self-critical view became unproductive (if it ever was) and now we find ourselves obsessing over what we may have done wrong or could do better and holding ourselves to standards we don't expect from others nor do they expect from us.
In what seems to have become a race of self-improvement life is now full of 'markers' that trigger these self-critical voices in our head - social media with perfectly curated caricatures of life, the constant pressure to be more than pure reflected in media driven mob criticism and the rising expectations we face in our professional lives as a dynamic and volatile operating environment filters down through organizations.
Taking positive steps
Moving from a self-critical mindset to a position of self-compassion doesn't happen overnight and is something that needs continual practice and reinforcement - just like physical health.
One of the ways that you can take a step in the right direction is to start with a simple but powerful tool - positive affirmations! Positive affirmations are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. This seemingly simple tool requires daily practice but the good news is that even though they can feel a little awkward at first they do work - as shown in a number of studies.
Here's how to get started:
- Develop your set of affirmations. Make these as specific to you as possible and link them to goals you might have (you want to be more grateful, confident etc).
- Start with 3 to 5 minutes at least twice a day. Try saying affirmations upon waking up and getting into bed, for example.
- Repeat each affirmation about 10 times. Listen to yourself saying it, focusing on the words as they leave your mouth. As you say them, believe them to be true.
- Try recording them. Listening to yourself say your own affirmations can help with visualization and is a great way to have a mid day practice even if you don't feel comfortable speaking them out loud while at work for example.
- Make your routine consistent. Try not to skip any days and if you do activities like meditation or yoga affirmations can be a great addition to your daily practice.
- Keep going. It may take some time before you notice any big changes, so stick with your practice and trust the process!
There are plenty of places you can go to find inspiration for your positive affirmations such as daily newsletters, lists you might want to print out or even instagram accounts that specialise in providing positive messages for you (we've highlighted a few below). The important thing is to curate a set that speaks to you and practice.
Put some positivity in your feed
If you are like us you might find it hard to completely remove social media from your life but you can turn it into a more positive environment by curating who you follow. Making sure you reinforce your self-compassion with supporting messages everywhere you are is a great way to encourage the practice and we've done a roundup of a few of our favourite Instagram accounts that help spread a positive message!
By following accounts with explicit messages to reinforce self-compassion you'll start to counteract the negative self-talk you might experience when you scroll - and they'll give you great ideas for positive affirmations to use each day.
Keen to know more?
If you want to explore more ways to support positive self-talk then we also like this thorough guide pulled together by the Guardian on self-compassion as well as this guide in the Harvard Business Review which break down the approach to building up self-compassion.