Dealing with self-criticism


Get over it.
It's been a year already.
You should be ashamed.
You need to suck it up and move on.
Omg you still haven't let go?
You aren't good enough.
It's because you're (__________ insert demeaning word of your choice.)
You aren't beautiful.
You're weak.
Of course you're rejected.

This is the voice of our inner critic, always there "supporting" us, thinking that we pave the road to self-improvement and growth this way.

I was like this for yeeeeears. And not only that, I surrounded myself with people, coaches, and relationships that were like this too because I thought this was normal. 

Imagine my horror, when I discovered how wrong this whole thing was and that there is actual scientific evidence as to how harmful it is to our bodies and minds. 

Here's what I've found:

"Self-criticism appears to have a very different effect on our body. The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain, and is designed to quickly detect threats in the environment. When we experience a threatening situation, the fight-or-flight response is triggered: The amygdala sends signals that increase blood pressure, adrenaline, and the hormone cortisol, mobilizing the strength and energy needed to confront or avoid a threat. Although this system was designed by evolution to deal with physical attacks, it is activated just as readily by emotional attacks. By ourselves or others." (Kristin Neff, The Physiology of Self-Compassion)

Wow! Right?

When we encounter a stressful situation, our system considers that as an attack and it can't differentiate it from an actual physical attack that might occur because of #reptilianbrain. To combat the stress and respond to it, we naturally fall into one of three survival modes:


It's precisely in the "fight mode" where we fall into the destructive pattern of self-criticism.

In "flight mode" we tend to isolate ourselves, cut off from the world as our way of fleeing (like our ancestors did, when dealing with a stressful situation, say they were being chased by a sabertooth tiger,) and lastly, in "freeze mode" we shut down and our thoughts compulsively and obsessively takeover our entire being, losing touch with the present moment, (like our ancestors again, they would stand still and pray the sabertooth tiger wouldn't notice their existence.)

I've done this numerous times and can go back and forth between each default mode at any given time. I typically tend to fall in the fight or freeze mode, but I'm working on practicing each of the steps, to upgrade if you will, from the default modes of operation.

So what to do??

I came across this "cheat sheet" during my Self-Compassion class and I wanted to share it with you because I think it's a valuable tool to have.

Here's what to do when you find yourself in one of the three default behaviors:

Default mode:
What to do instead: Practice Self-Kindness

Default mode: Self-Isolation
What to do instead: Embrace Common Humanity

Default mode: Self-Absorption
What to do instead: Practice Mindfulness

Changing our behavior from something that has been embedded in our brains for eons as a means of physical survival, is a difficult task.

It takes daily effort but I'm hopeful we'll all slowly understand that emotionally attacking ourselves isn't necessary anymore, being kind to ourselves though is. Because that extends to other people, we stop attacking others and it's what's necessary as a species for survival now.


Further reading/videos: 
-1-minute meditation
-Self-Esteem vs. Self-Compassion