You would never turn to the student next to you in Bikram and say, “God, your trikanasana is sloppy!” or “You’ve been practicing for six months and you can’t do standing bow? What a loser!” And goodness knows, you would be furious if a stranger said that to you. But have you ever said something mean to yourself? Be honest. Chances are you have. If not in yoga practice, then at work, or at home, or in the car.
Our competitive, comparative culture makes it easy to feel like we’re falling behind, or not doing enough, and this can lead to self-criticism. We tell ourselves we’re not smart enough, attractive enough, hard-working enough, flexible enough, talented enough, or funny enough. Even when we project confidence we may still allow our internal critic to belittle us.
If we give this nagging voice a home in our head it can do serious damage. We fixate on our perceived flaws and become anxious and unhappy. Instead of working joyfully we freeze up. We lose our ability to create and take risks.
The solution? Mindfulness.
Label your thoughts and emotions. Call a thought a thought and an emotion an emotion. Instead of saying to yourself, “I’m not doing enough at work,” say: “I think that I’m not doing enough at work.” When you label your thoughts and feelings you gain perspective. It stops you reacting to hurtful thoughts and gives you control over your internal monologue.
Then, substitute kind words. Replace the thought: “I’m not this as well as I should” with, “I am improving every day.” When you speak to yourself with kindness, you develop kinder attitude towards others as well.
Have you overcome self-critical habits? Please share your thoughts in the comments.