This week we have a very special Wellness Wednesdays newsletter, written by guest blogger Courtenay Crucil. Courtenay is a Clinical Counselor here to shed some light on destructive thoughts. Take it away Court!

For most of us, we are our own toughest critics. We often say things to ourselves that we wouldn’t dare say to our worst enemies!

“What’s wrong with you?”
“You could’ve done better!”
“You’re a failure.”
“If you don’t ______ then you will never _______.”

Sound familiar? This kind of thinking is not only destructive, but we often do it without even realizing that we are doing it.

So, why are we so hard on ourselves? Research shows that the most common reason that we are so hard on ourselves is for motivation – we believe that self-criticism will help us to be more successful, but we couldn’t be more wrong!

Destructive thoughts do the exact opposite. They make us feel crumby and WAY more stressed out than we were in the first place.

Fight or Flight

  • When we are facing a difficult situation the FIGHT or FLIGHT response is activated in our brains.
  • This releases adrenaline and cortisol, and tricks our brains (and bodies) into believing that we are in danger.
  • Often, this is when our brain trips into autopilot: We “fight back”, but we do this through self-destructive thoughts (eg. this is your fault, you deserved this, etc…). Instead of creating comfort, these types of thoughts end up making us feel more stressed out and even more emotionally activated!
  • The funny thing about this very normal way of thinking is that it makes us both the attacked AND the attacker! But, how can we defend ourselves from these destructive thinking patterns?

2 words: Self-compassion.

Self- Compassion

Having compassion for oneself is very similar to having compassion for others.

I want you to stop for a moment, and imagine someone that you love dearly. This might be a friend, a family member, a partner? Now think about a time when that person was facing a difficult situation. Perhaps they lost a job, failed at something, or were having difficulty accepting something about themselves (eg. their body image)?

Seeing this person in pain was likely difficult for you. It may have moved you emotionally, and made you want to help that person in some way. So tell me, at this challenging time did you turn to your loved one and berate them, or, did you offer them understanding and kindness (aka compassion)? Hopefully, it was the latter.

Imagine if we treated ourselves with this same level of empathy, care, and comfort at difficult times? Well, guess what? We don’t have to just imagine! We can do this by having self-compassion.

Self-compassion is based on three elements:

  1. Self-kindness: treating ourselves with kindness versus harsh self-judgment or criticism.
  2. Common humanity: reflecting on the ways that, as humans, we are similar versus the ways that we are different. We all experience suffering and feel vulnerable at times… these are normal parts of being alive.
  3. Mindfulness: observing our thoughts and feelings as they are in the present moment without judgment. In order to truly give ourselves compassion we have to be able to acknowledge our negative thoughts and emotions.

Self- Compassion in Action

Disclaimer: Learning and implementing self-compassion is really like learning a new skill. Please be kind to yourself in the process (see what I did there ;)).

Next time you are feeling badly about yourself, or are suffering, I want you to ask yourself:

  • What would I say to a good friend right now if they were going through the exact same circumstances?
  • What would I do for him or her?
  • How would I feel about them for feeling this way?
  • Now respond to yourself in this same way. I repeat, respond to yourself in the way that you would to a good friend. Observe your experience of doing this. Did it feel odd? Did it resonate?
  1. STOP and give yourself a pat on the back for the things you ARE doing well! Often we get so down on ourselves for the things we haven’t done, but in doing so we completely miss out on all of the brilliant things that we are doing. Success is NOT all-or-nothing… we must celebrate the small steps along the journey.
  2. Learn more about the conflicting parts of yourself by doing this exercise.
  3. Slow down and meditate! Check out this list of self-compassion guided meditations.

Resources

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion – this easy to follow book by Christopher Germer, PhD is very well written and provides practical (and powerful) tools to “free yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions”.

Kristin Neff, PhD – the woman who brought self-compassion into the academic realm in the early 2000s. Check out her information-packed website here.

Take a moment and test how self compassionate you are here.


Love yourself, as much as we love you !!

More about Courtenay:
Currently residing in Vancouver, Courtenay works as a Clinical Counsellor with individuals, couples, and families within a community context.

When not working with clients or conducting research, she enjoys gardening, cooking, cycling and exploring B.C.’s coastal mountains. Get connected with Courtenay by clicking here.


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