As we continue our journey of letting go of negativity and unneeded burdens in the new year, may we seek to become more aware of our internal dialogues and the judgments we place on ourselves. Self-judgment can be insidious; we sometimes don't even notice when we are judging ourselves. But a critical inner voice that is constantly bossing us around, stating that our thoughts and feelings are "good" or "bad", and telling us what we "should" and "should not" think can wreak havoc on our self concept and limit our ability to truly love ourselves well.
As we seek to meet the challenges of the new year with a vibrant heart and mind, let's not neglect the importance of compassion for ourselves. Below are a few tips for becoming more mindful of our inner voice, and letting go of self-judgments that may be holding us back.
1. Let Go of "Should"
When we find ourselves engaging in a thought pattern or emotion that's not productive, it can be easy to beat ourselves up for even having it. I know that when I become flustered in a stressful situation, I often add guilt into the mix because I think "I shouldn't be feeling this way. I should learn to control my emotions better." But adding this guilt onto myself does nothing to help me navigate the situation well or find a solution. Rather than lecturing ourselves for how we should or should not be feeling in a given situation, we can choose the freedom of simply acknowledging whatever feeling or thought arises, without attaching expectations or judgments to it.
2. Ask: "What do I want to do with this thought/feeling?"
When we're in a stressful situation, our emotions can often start to take over and leave us feeling powerless to think or act productively. I can think of certain high-pressure situations where I needed to find a solution quickly, but all I could do was focus on how upset and afraid I was. Not only was I judging myself for feeling this way ("You should have a better grasp on your emotions"), I also felt powerless to act with wisdom and intention in the face of such strong emotions. I was letting them pull me along instead of taking charge and being mindful. The next time this happens to us, let's try this more productive technique: acknowledge the feeling as it comes, and then simply ask, objectively: "What do I want to do with this feeling?"
In the case of feeling flustered when something goes wrong, we can choose to coach ourselves gently toward action: "You're beginning to feel flustered. What do you want to do with this feeling? Do you want to intensify it? Sit with it? Move away from it?" Asking ourselves what we want to do with our emotions gives us a level of control. Just because our bodies respond in certain ways to high emotion or stress doesn't mean we are rendered totally powerless. We can choose to acknowledge the feelings and then ask, "What do I want to do?" This simple exercise can go a long way in helping us regain our emotional balance when we feel caught off guard.
3. Speak to yourself as you speak to your loved ones.
If you're a parent, you're very familiar with the emotional roller coaster of the toddler years. Even for those who don't have kids, we all have friends or family who sometimes experience emotions they don't like and can't control. When these situations arise, how do we respond? If a two-year-old cries because they fell and skinned their knee, I doubt anyone would say, "You shouldn't feel this way. You need to be more in control of your emotions." If a friend dissolves into tears after a rough breakup, we wouldn't chastise her and tell her to get a grip. When our friends and loved ones feel things, we acknowledge their feelings, validate them, and comfort them. Why not use this same response with ourselves? The next time you become unexpectedly upset or begin to feel an unwanted thought or emotion arising, stop and pretend you're witnessing this feeling in someone you love. How do you respond to them? Bring that same compassion, validation and gentleness to yourself. You are worthy of love.
Beauties, we hope you'll join us in practicing these simple but powerful tips as we move into an intentional week of heightened mindfulness. We'd love to hear your suggestions for how you release self-judgment and practice self-compassion.