Befriending Ourselves – how to be more compassionate with ourselves

Our inner critic is loud and bossy. Have you ever stopped to listen to it?

“What did I do that for? I’m such an idiot!”

“I’m so fat!”

“I’ll never make anything of my life!”

“Why does this always happen to me?”

“I’ll never get this right!”

This inner critical voice has been with us since very early in our lives. It’s our most consistent companion. Maybe you’ve tried to change it with positive affirmation statements or to silence it through meditation, but it’s very hard to fool yourself or to shut this voice down and despite all your efforts, the inner critic is loud and clear and bossy as ever: “Yeah right! As if!” So you check to see if it’s 5pm yet: “Surely it’s time for my evening glass of wine!” or you reach for some chocolate or cake or some other comfort food and get lost in Facebook for a while. It’s much easier to numb.

What if you really started listening to this voice and what it has to say? What if you put on a different set of ears and listen through the negativity and criticism to what is really being expressed?

When your child says “He’s being mean to me!”, they’re really telling you that they are feeling sad and angry and would perhaps like your support to help them to feel safe or included with their friends. Our inner critic is the same – it’s using habitual language learnt in childhood. It just doesn’t know how else to express itself to you. And, like a child, we can turn towards this inner critic and really listen with compassion, love and curiosity.

So what can we do when we become aware of the loud ranting voice in our heads? Here are three quick tips to help you listen with compassion to your inner critic:

  1. BREATHE
    Pause and take a few deep breaths. This helps to calm your nervous system and slow things down.

  2. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
    The body talks and if we can slow down enough and start to notice the sensations, we can learn a lot about our inner world. We don’t have to do anything or analyse it, just to notice with gentle curiosity. Perhaps there is a contracting feeling in your stomach or your scalp is prickling. Try to stay with the sensation. A way to help you stay focused on the sensation is to describe it: Does it have a colour, shape, texture, thickness, etc? Just be with it.
  3. LISTEN WITH LOVE – Focus on Feelings & Needs
    This inner critic is a part of you that wants to be heard and loved, to be noticed and to matter. When your child comes crying to you saying that someone was mean to them at school, what do you do? You probably take them on your knee, give them a cuddle and make some soft, loving, compassionate sounds that let them know they are loved and that they matter and that you are here for them. This is what your inner critic needs too. Can you guess what feelings are underneath the harsh, negative language? Sadness? Frustration? Disappointment? What really matters here? What is the longing? What is important? What is needed? Love? Inclusion? Understanding?

The more we identify with the inner critic, the more we stay in a state of helplessness and disempowerment. Through slowing down, allowing, tuning into our bodies and really starting to listen, we can get more in touch with what really matters to us in our lives and then we start to make different choices and have more clarity when things aren’t going the way we hoped. The path to empowerment and really creating the life we want is through self compassion.

When we can be better friends to ourselves, we can be better parents, lovers, children, friends, neighbours, colleagues and citizens. A compassionate world is created by compassionate people and it starts with our relationship to ourselves.

Want to learn how to be more compassionate with yourself?

I regularly facilitate workshops on Self Compassion and Compassionate Communication. Check my Facebook page for the upcoming workshops.

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Vision in daily life

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Copyright: Gloria Rosazza

I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about my core values, and trying to get a clearer vision of my life and how to really live in alignment with my values. I’m realising, it’s a moment to moment thing – in each moment, when the awareness is there, I can think: “is this what I want? is this the kind of world I want to live in?”.

This week has given me lots of opportunities to ponder this. My daughter broke her arm on Sunday when a branch she was climbing on broke. There were three other children present when she fell and two of the kids ran off after she fell. Continue reading “Vision in daily life”

Empathy is a gateway to Compassion

mum kayo and meEmpathy is a gateway to compassion. It’s understanding how someone feels, and trying to imagine how that might feel for you — it’s a mode of relating. Compassion takes it further. It’s feeling what that person is feeling, holding it, accepting it, and taking some kind of action.

(quote from BigThink)

I like this article’s explanation of the difference between empathy and compassion – it’s something I’ve been puzzling over for a while. It now makes more sense to me why Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is also called Compassionate Communication. Continue reading “Empathy is a gateway to Compassion”

Hearing is healing

Copyright: mnsanthoshkumar / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: mnsanthoshkumar / 123RF Stock Photo

I’m realising more and more just how powerful listening is. Last night, I was doing reflective listening with my son, i.e. I was repeating back in my own words what I understood he was saying with a particular focus on his feelings and needs. It was satisfying to do because it helped me to be present with him and not go off into my own thoughts. Some time into the conversation, there was a lull and he suddenly said “I love you so much. I’m just feeling so full of love at the moment. It’s strange but lately I’ve been feeling this kind of overflowing love feeling a lot”. I think it’s because he felt so heard and because I was so present with him. My pattern is to be very busy and distracted and wanting to do my own thing and I think I haven’t been present enough with him over the years (particularly when he was little). This year, I’m really focused on trying to be present with him and I’ve noticed lately how he frequently expresses this “overflowing with love” feeling to me.

I watched a very powerful documentary this week on how listening can help people to heal from major conflict and trauma and how it can facilitate truth and reconciliation processes. This 55-minute documentary (below), Raamro Aakha Ma (In the Eyes of the Good), shows parts of a 7-day workshop “Healing and Reconciliation through Nonviolent Communication” that was held in Nepal in December 2014. The workshop was held to help people heal their trauma from the 10-year civil war in Nepal and to facilitate peace and reconciliation between victims and former combatants.
Continue reading “Hearing is healing”

My journey

10-most-inspiring-quotes-7-728Compassionate Communication (also known as Nonviolent Communication or NVC for short) has profoundly changed my life or rather the way I experience my life – the quality of my relationships in my family, at work and in my community. This way of communicating has also given me hope, hope for a more peaceful future and easier solutions to the challenges we face in the world today.

My journey into NVC really began with my son. From an early age, he was fiercely independent and what I then labelled as extremely bossy. People told me his bossiness showed future leadership tendencies but living with him felt like living with a little dictator. At five, he told me “mummy, when I grow up, I’m going to be the government and I’m going to ban people from cutting down trees”. We live in an Ecovillage and my son often contemplates world problems like poverty and deforestation and comes up with ideas to solve them. So on one hand I felt greatly encouraged that this future leader was wanting to solve pressing world problems. On the other hand, he seemed to think and function as though he was the centre of the universe and everyone had to do as he wished. We parented him as best we could but used quite a bit of coercion and threat to get him to conform to the daily routines of bedtime and school life.

As our younger daughter (a more compliant people-pleaser) grew out of babyhood and into being the younger sister and playmate, I painfully witnessed the results of our parenting being mirrored in how our son was communicating with his sister. I realised that if he really was going to grow up and be the government and help to solve the world’s problems, I would rather try to foster a democratic leader than a dictator and therefore, I needed to change my communication style so I booked myself into a foundation training weekend in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) at the Relaxation Centre in Brisbane with NVC trainer Cate Crombie (metacommunicate.com). Continue reading “My journey”