Are you your own harshest critic?
If you're nodding, welcome to the club -- not one I'm proud to be a member of, but certainly one I have long standing in. From the time I look in the mirror in the morning ("Ugh, I really wish my stomach was flatter / torso was longer / skin was clearer...") to way too many times throughout the day ("I rushed out of the house too fast and didn't hug my daughter tightly enough / I could have done that investor call better / my lunch should have been healthier...."), self-criticism is an ongoing track in my head. It's terrible, really, but every time I mention it to a friend, I see the nod that tells me I'm not alone.
The other day I was doing some shopping with my daughter and tried on a dress. She was in the dressing room with me when I started to turn around to analyze -- well, let's be honest, criticize -- the way I looked in it from all angles. I try to mute my self-criticism when my daughter is around so as not to set a terrible example, but before I even knew what was happening the words were coming out of my mouth: "I don't have the body for this..."
My daughter interrupted me: "Mama! The dress looks awesome -- and even if you don't love it, which is cool, isn't there something you DO like about it? If you were with your friend, you'd probably start with that first, so how come when it's you, you point out something negative?"
It was a classic moment of "kids speak the truth" meets "when did you get so smart and mature and OMG I can't believe this is my child who is being so grown up!" She was beyond right. When it comes to ourselves, we're super-quick to find flaws, issues, negatives, and failures. When it comes to our friends, we focus on the good stuff first, even when we're giving constructive criticism.
What if we put our thoughts and judgements about ourselves through that same filter? A filter of positivity: "Would I say this to a friend?" Would we be kinder, nicer, more gentle to ourselves? What would we lose if we gave up the title of harshest self-critic and instead, treated ourselves the same way we would treat others we love in our lives?
One of the most powerful meditations I've ever done is called Love and Kindness Meditation. (I'm a total novice at meditating, still trying to learn to do it, and tried this one at a yoga class once.) It's a practice of directing positive feelings, wishes, and emotions towards people in your life...and it starts by directing them towards yourself. We can't be awesome humans to others if we are not awesome humans to ourselves -- and there is tons of scientific research demonstrating the health and well-being benefits of Love and Kindness Meditation.
Maybe you'll give Love and Kindness Meditation a try. But maybe even before that you'll consider what my daughter inspired me to start doing -- to put at least some of your thoughts about yourself through a simple filter of: Would I say this to a friend? Like me, I think you'll notice a huge shift in how you talk to yourself and, in time, you'll become kinder and gentler to the awesome human that you already are.