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Compassion For THE VOICE (Part 2 Of “I Want It, But I Don’t Want It”)

Posted Mar 21 2013 8:52am

“If we magnified our successes as much as we magnify our disappointments, we’d all be much happier.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

You know…sometimes we get so damned angry with The Voice (aka self-criticism) that we tell it to shut the f*#k up. I’ve been-there-done-that too many times to count. It can be temporarily effective, and it certainly feels good in the moment.

But something I’ve learned is that The Voice kind of expects angry resistance. I mean, it’s The Voice, right? It thrives on drama and conflict!

Recently one of my clients asked, “How do you choose not to believe someone else’s negative opinion when THE VOICE tells you they’re right?”

Here’s the quick answer: The Voice, while it can be horribly nasty to us, actually has our best interests at heart. It wants to protect us and keep us safe. But it comes from the reptilian part of our brain…the part that, if a tiger were chasing us, would make us run or fight back.

Problem is, The Voice doesn’t know the difference between a tiger and, let’s say, us being afraid that someone is going to tell us that we suck. So it tells us we suck before someone else can do it.

The trick is first to remember that we are indeed in control of The Voice – we are not passive victims of it. In fact, it is us and we are it.

And second is to have compassion for The Voice – precisely because it is part of us – to acknowledge it.

“Thank you so much for doing your job. I know you’re trying to protect me, but in this case, self-criticism isn’t helping.”

Having compassion for The Voice allows it to feel validated and heard, so it chills out for a while. If not, it will keep trying.

The other thing to know about self-criticism is that it causes stress and anxiety, which is not very conducive to doing our best. So it really does not serve us in ANY way to constantly criticize ourselves so harshly. This is why I suggest being kindly fascinated with yourself.

Using self-compassion and kind fascination to motivate might seem counterintuitive, but in reality, what it does is access the nurturing, mammalian part of our brains, calm the amygdala (the part of the brain that controls flight/fight response), and thus reduce cortisol. It allows us to make decisions from a calm place.

Here’s a quick little self-compassion exercise I learned from Dr. Kristin Neff, who is taking part in The Self-Acceptance Project  (you’ve got to check it out…it’s free):

Take a deeeep belly breath and think about what it is that is causing you to suffer (your thoughts). Place your hands over your heart.

Repeat after me: “This is a moment of suffering. This is really hard.”

Now this: “Suffering is a part of life and it is a part of the shared human existence. I am not alone.”

And finally this: “And so may I be kind to myself in this moment, and may I give myself the compassion I need.”

What do you think? Does self-criticism motivate you to do your best? Are you sure? Have you ever tried self-compassion?


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