While we may not always feel we deserve to ‘cut ourselves a break,’ by offering ourselves a bit of self-compassion we can learn to break that cycle, and with time, we can re-train our brains and become our own biggest cheerleaders, instead of our biggest critics.
Re-Training Your Brain
Over time our thoughts forge typical thought pathways in our brains. Think of a sled in the snow. We start with a fresh snowbank, but after a few trips down the hill, we’ve left tracks. The sled will naturally gravitate towards these routes, rather than forge ahead through new snowbanks. Like the sled, your brain follows the path that has been laid out for it – the path of least resistance.
The good news is that our brains are remarkably adaptable.
What we learn, we can unlearn.
In the words of Psychology Today, “The brain is not hardwired, but plastic. Dendritic and synaptic connections have been demonstrated to rewire themselves via experience, and, most intriguingly, through mind training.”
In other words, with time and effort, we can re-train our brains to work for us, rather than against us. The tools and suggestions below will help you get started.
Trading Criticism for Compassion
- Stop & Question: A good place to begin is by simply asking yourself, “What would I tell my child?” or “What would I tell a friend?” Practice offering yourself the same empathy and compassion.
- Start a Dialogue: Catch yourself when a negative thought creeps in, and start a dialogue with your inner critic. Is this thought based in reality, or is it a subjective opinion? What proof do you have that this is the case? Is there another way to look at the situation?
- Write it Down: Journaling may be helpful as you work through these dialogues, and help you reframe your thoughts from a place of empathy and self-compassion.
- Relax & Reframe: Try to view your mistakes as valuable learning experiences. Isabel Foxen Duke writes, “Embrace your “mistakes” as the teachers that they are. When we judge, we miss the lesson.”
For further reading on the benefits of self-compassion, check out the article below from Esperanza magazine:
Depression: Self-Compassion Can Change Your Life