As I write these words my mind is already telling me to stop. That there's no point in continuing because, who will read this? And that really, nobody should even be allowed to read this because it's just a bunch of junk by some confused and unqualified individual. And lastly, it's also saying: "do something else. You can't write."
Supposedly this voice in my head exists to help me survive but in reality, the constant criticism isn't helping me, it's holding me back. I venture to guess that you too have a voice in your head telling you similar lies: that you're not good enough. That you shouldn't even try.
What if - just imagine! - that voice, actually supported us instead of holding us back. Not by painting an overly optimistic picture of ourselves and life, with nothing but rainbows and sunshine, but like a present parent, a helpful coach or a good friend would love and support us through life's lows and highs. Being kinder and having more self-compassion to ourselves is that approach. Instead of beating ourselves up for not being better, more successful, more attractive, more whatever!, exercising self-compassion helps us recognize that we are worthy of living a full life whatever mistakes we make along the way.
Making mistakes and experiencing bad outcomes is a natural part of life but that don't make us any less worthy of living and trying. Recognizing this and becoming more comfortable with mistakes and failure will help us live more fulfilling lives. I'm writing this article to learn to write better. Will it be a great article? Probably not. Will anyone read it? Probably no one besides the people I send it to. Should anyone read it? is an irrelevant question. How else can I learn to write than by writing? In writing this article, I gave myself the compassion I needed to face my fear of making mistakes so I could develop a skill that I truly want - writing.
How can we exercise more self-compassion? Psychologists Kristin Neff and Allison Abrams propose several exercises. My recommendation is to be more observant of the chatter going on in your head and to question it more. When the level of criticism becomes too much, ask yourself, would you say something like this to a friend? If a friend had done what you had just done, thought what you had thought, said what you had said, what would you say to them? If a friend of yours wanted to start writing, how would you support them?
This is the point of self-compassion, it enables us to reach for our goals and accept mistakes as part of the process. What are you holding yourself back from achieving?
Thank you to Steve Johnson for the brilliant photo!