We are Our Worst Critics:
If you are someone you continually berates yourself or always finds faults with yourself, then you are experiencing what psychologists call ‘negativity bias’. This is the instinct in us all that makes negative experiences seem more significant than they really are. In other words: We’ve evolved to give more weight to our flaws, mistakes and shortcomings than our successes.
One major issue with this is the toll it can take on both our minds and bodies. It leads to ruminative thoughts that interfere with your productivity, as well as stimulates an inflammatory response in our bodies that can lead to illness and accelerated aging. While it is a good thing to recognize when you’ve made a mistake so that you learn from the experience, the issue arises when it leads to harmful self-criticism. This often times can lead to anxiety, negative self-image, depression, and even a reliance on outside mechanisms to make us feel better- whether that is alcohol or drugs or even food.
And often we see this negativity bias in ourselves when we have had life-long experiences with weight loss and gain. One reason is the set up of many diets- that you must only eat ‘good’ foods and if you happen to have a food on the ‘bad’ list, you, too, are bad. Another is the positive feedback we receive when we lose weight and the possible negative feedback or questions we receive if we happen to gain weight. Both of these factors lead to our minds feeding us negative thoughts about ourselves while we strive for a healthy lifestyle.
How Mindfulness Can Help:
As we have slowly begun to learn, if we don’t recognize the connection our minds have to our health, we are missing a vital part of being able to achieve our goals. So how can mindfulness help us learn to forgive and move on? Here are a few ways you can use mindfulness to become more forgiving and accepting of yourselves, leading to a healthier you!
- As we become more and more critical of ourselves, we begin to ignore any time we accomplish or do well in a task. So it is important for you to begin to record any successes you may have, even if it is a bit uncomfortable. As we focus on the positive, it slowly changes our perspective.
- Being hard on ourselves often times can lead to the belief that we don’t deserve to be happy. Therefore, it is important to find activities that make you feel positive, energized, and content with yourself. Don’t choose the activities based on what others like or want to do, but what makes you happy!
- Those around you have a huge effect on how we feel about ourselves as well. If you continually surround yourself with others that berate or belittle you or are constantly negative, it’s time to detox yourself from these ‘friends’. Set boundaries when you are around them, limit your interactions with them, and find others who support you in all that you do.
- If you can’t seem to love yourself, find compassion for your self. Self-compassion has been shown to be the number one way we can practice personal mindfulness and is composed of three parts: 1) Self-kindness: Accepting that you are not perfect; 2) Common humanity: Learning to see ourselves as others do and remembering no one is perfect; 3) Mindfulness: Being present to the way things really are in an open way.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. This is the easiest way to find fault with yourself. And often we aren’t comparing ourselves to the other person, but what you perceive them to be. You have no idea what struggles they are going through in real life.
- Seek the support of others if you need it, including professional help. Often we are so hard on ourselves from a difficult life experience and these can be overwhelming to process. Talking with a professional can help you through this process.
Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself: Personal Mindfulness Challenge
Why It’s Important: Beating ourselves up time and again only leads to a cycle of giving up and trying again, only to make a mistake and give up on ourselves again. We need to break the cycle in order to truly be successful in our path to a healthy lifestyle.
Your Challenge: This week’s challenge is more of an internal challenge, but so vital to try to accomplish. Your health coach will follow up with you to see if you have achieved it next time you check-in, so at least attempting these steps are important.
- Make the choice that you’ll at least try a new approach to thinking about yourself. Commit to treating yourself more kindly — call it letting go of self-judgment, going easier on yourself, practicing self-compassion or whatever resonates most.
- Meet your criticism with kindness. If your inner critic says, “You’re lazy and worthless,” respond with a reminder: “You’re doing your best” or “We all make mistakes.”
- Make a deliberate, conscious effort to recognize the difference between how you feel when caught up in self-criticism, and how you feel when you can let go of it. Do this by practicing what it feels like to treat yourself as you might treat a friend.