The Inner Critic and the Inner Friend

“You are not good enough! What’s wrong with you?”

Imagine if someone uttered these words to you… what would your response be and how would you feel?  

Have you ever noticed that sometimes our self-talk can take a negative turn? I definitely have, it’s really common, and it’s ok to talk about. Another thing I have noticed is that it often happens when I am under some pressure or stress.

Did you know that this is actually the brain’s default mechanism designed to protect you from making mistakes, better yourself, and keep you safe? Additionally, research has shown that the body has a physiological reaction to those words and there are better ways to speak to ourselves to motivate and soothe ourselves.

In times of challenge, we really need someone for support. Becoming a parent for the first time, a new job, a big life change, adapting to a new culture, puberty, being a teen, unemployment, or just the stresses of everyday life – they all present us with challenges that long for a compassionate friend.

When I arrived on the island of Phuket, I didn’t know anyone and so I had to be my own ‘pick me up’. There is an incredible resource inside of each and every one of you! I learned to befriend myself and employ the techniques of mindful self-compassion. This involves talking to yourself and being with yourself as if you were interacting with a really good friend. If you would like to explore this more deeply, there is a wealth of science-backed, fabulous online resources from Dr Kristin Neff and Dr Chris Germer.

In the meantime, here are some steps you can explore:

  1. Notice when you hear yourself speaking harshly to yourself.
  2. Smile to yourself for noticing (getting upset by them makes it worse and don’t forget, we all have them!) – well done for calling them out!
  3. If you feel comfortable, put a hand somewhere comforting on your body (this connects to our mammalian caregiving system).
  4. Take a few deep breaths and finally ask yourself, “What would my most compassionate friend have said to me in this situation?” 

I hope that you can learn to befriend yourself and employ the techniques of mindful self-compassion.

Lucy Keller
Lucy Keller

Head of Mindfulness, UWC Thailand International School

Lucy holds a BA Sociology, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education, is a Qualified Yoga Instructor, a Qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher (UCSD) and a .Bfoundations and PawsB mindfulness teacher.


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