Have you ever said to yourself, ‘I’ve fucked up’?
When we make a mistake, negative thoughts like this often crop up.
And that thought can start a train of thoughts that leads to an outpouring of self-recrimination.
‘I always fuck up.’
‘Why did I do that?’
You start telling yourself off for the mistake.
Telling yourself you’re not good enough.
Telling yourself your clumsy, stupid, naïve, silly, an idiot, a failure.
A simple mistake that can easily be brushed off, forgiven or accepted.
Or perhaps learnt from if you took a moment to think about it, has now turned into a whole negative story about who you are.
The Inner Critic Packs a Punch
We all have that ‘inner critic’ voice in our head.
That nagging voice which says unkind and mean things to us.
The inner critic who turns us into a metaphorical punch bag.
From my personal experience, what starts out as one punch can easily build into a mental war against yourself.
For many of us our attitude towards ourselves can be far from friendly because we have deeply ingrained habits of judging ourselves.
We’re often unaware of it, but our judgments can affect every part of our life – work, relationships, creativity and enthusiasm for life.
Feeling imperfect, that we’re not good enough or not enough is a common experience and our habits of self-judgment and self-aversion can be persistent.
Meditation and the Inner Critic
What meditation made me realize was that I had been mentally beating myself up since I was 6 years old.
Decades of critiques, judgments, blame, doubt and shame.
And I’d become very attached to these thoughts.
I started to believe that these thoughts were me.
But they’re not.
What my meditation practice has helped me do is to become more aware of the inner critic, training me to notice when thoughts appear.
And when I notice them appear, I can either choose to let them go or change the way I perceive them.
Becoming Aware of Negative Thoughts
By building self-awareness through meditation you can reduce the negative thought patterns you’ve developed.
When you focus your attention on the breath in meditation, it’s likely your mind will wander off into thought.
It may be for a brief moment or a few minutes.
When you notice you’re lost in thought, that moment of noticing is called awareness.
You’re aware that you’re having a thought.
That moment when you notice you’re lost in thought is where you break the cycle of negative thinking.
Breaking the Loop of Negative Thoughts
Think of your negative thoughts like a loop.
The moment you become aware of them, creates a break point in the loop.
So instead of the thoughts continuing to loop round and round in your head.
That moment of awareness creates an opening in the loop which effectively breaks the negative thought cycle.
Taking the Kind and Friendly Approach
In the moment when you break the loop, you have an opportunity to change the way you see yourself.
You can simply let the negative thoughts go or you can start a conversation with them.
Are they true?
If someone made the same mistake, would you be as critical of them as you’re being of yourself right now?
Can you see that story you’re telling yourself from a different perspective?
Can you learn a lesson from what went wrong?
As you start to change your mind in this way, it’s important to move forward with kindness and compassion.
Self-kindness entails being understanding and warm to ourselves if we fail or make mistakes.
If we don’t do the things we want to do or fail to meet the expectations that we place on ourselves.
And if we practice with kindness, you’ll be able to radically reduce the strength of the inner critic and your negative thoughts.
Not only can this help you cultivate a friendly relationship with yourself, but it can also create the foundation for a friendlier, more compassionate and accepting relationship with other people.
A win/win for everyone.
Joe : )
Interested in learning how to meditate?