How To Motivate Yourself With Kindness

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amorpropioPost written by Lovelyn Bettison.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield

I got off at the wrong exit on the expressway. It was a simple mistake that added twenty minutes to my trip. Anyone could’ve done it, but I just couldn’t seem to let it go. As I waited in traffic my inner voice flogged me.

“I can’t believe I did this.”

“I’m so stupid.”

“How did I get to be such an idiot. Now I’m going to be late.”

That’s what I kept telling myself. My sense of anxiety grew as I looked at the traffic in front of me. I watched the minutes tick by on the dashboard clock and felt an increasing sense of annoyance. I sat there for a while feeling upset, before something in my head clicked and I remembered what I’d been learning.

I’d spent the past few months studying meditation and mindfulness and about learning to love myself and others more. Yet here I was, sitting in traffic treating myself terribly. If a friend had made a similar mistake is this how I would’ve treated her? How about my mother or sister? Would I have treated them this badly? No. So why did I feel like it was okay to treat myself this way?

Do you pay attention to the way you talk to yourself?

What is your inner voice like? Is it harsh? Is it cruel? Is it hard to please? Do you call yourself names? Do you refer to yourself as stupid or an idiot? Do you let that voice make you feel bad or ashamed?

Many of us have harsh inner voices. We beat ourselves up for our mistakes. We are unforgiving and relentless in our criticisms. Some carry with them the false idea that by doing so they encourage improvement. We can sometimes think that being cruel is the only way to be motivated to change. But it isn’t necessarily true.

Would you use this same technique on your own child? If she made a mistake would you call her stupid and unlovable? Would that help her not make that mistake again? It may, but it would also hurt her soul, shake her self-esteem, and wound your relationship.

Studies have found that self-compassion actually increases motivation far more than self-criticism. In one study done by Juliana Breines at the University of California, Berkeley, a group of students were given a frustrating and difficult test. Some were shown a message of self-compassion after taking the test that told them not to worry about doing badly on the test because it was hard and many other students had difficulty completing it. The students that were shown the compassionate message were more willing study to improve their ability to solve similar questions in the future.

Inner criticism increases your stress and anxiety, but it does nothing to prevent you from repeating the same action in the future. In fact, that sense of stress, anxiety, and low sense of self-worth in relation to that action makes you more likely to repeat it later. Instead of making yourself feel like it is possible to overcome a challenge you make yourself feel like there is no use in trying.

I’ve seen this happen in my life again and again. The more I berate myself for procrastinating an important task, the more I procrastinate. The harder I am on myself for oversleeping, the more likely I am to oversleep again later in the week. Have you ever noticed this pattern in your life?

What can you do if you notice you are being harsh and unkind to yourself?

 Many things we do as adults are habits that we can easily fall into, but being aware can help you stop this habit. When you notice your inner critic being harsh stop for a moment and take a deep breath. I don’t want to encourage an inner argument. Your inner critic is trying to help you. It’s important to acknowledge that.

When my inner critic starts chattering I think, “Thanks for trying to help, but I can handle this.” This is a good way to dismiss the voice. Then tell yourself something encouraging like, “This is difficult, but I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out.” Or “A lot of people have a hard time with this, but if I keep trying I’ll get it.” Or “Mistakes happen. I’m sure I’ll learn a good lesson from this one.”

Being kind to yourself is important. Being your own best friend will help motivate you to do better in life, raise your self-esteem, and increase your general sense of well-being.

The next time you notice your inner voice being harsh, stop, take a few deep breaths, and remember that kindness is the best policy even with yourself.

Lovelyn Bettison is an author, artist, and life coach who helps people reclaim their dreams and conquer their fears. Go to her website to get your free copy of A Dreamer’s Manifesto and take the first step to living your dreams today.

Study referenced in the article – Juliana Breines University of California, Berkeley Study

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