Issue 3 of Self-compassion
One of the reasons people become self-critical has to do with our biological systems. Our need to belong to a community makes us sensitive to what is suitable in the group, and how we are supposed to behave in order to fit in. Therefore, we are born with the ability to feel ashamed.
Healthy, mild shame is necessary for this type of customization.
But when we, as small children, realize how horrible it feels to receive criticism from our parents, it can make us want to criticize ourselves first. It feels better than risking someone else’s attack.
We also believe that we would escape criticism if only we were perfect.
But this striving can make us feel like we are never good enough. We fall into a constant competition to achieve more, pass more, even be more than we are. Which, in turn, makes us have unrealistic demands on ourselves. We tend to use a hard inner voice that tells us what we should and must.
Tara Brach, an American psychologist and meditation teacher who has become immensely popular all over the world, has discovered that people increasingly seem to be "in a trance of unworthiness."
I am the only Swedish reporter who has interviewed Tara Brach. In my article Why Self-compassion Is So Radical you can read about her method of radical acceptance, and how she learnt to embrace life when an incurable genetic disease stopped her from a lot of activities that she loved.
Read the interview mentioned above. Follow-up with Tara Brach’s self-acceptance exercise RAIN.
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Many of us have quite a critical attitude toward ourselves. Some of us might even address ourselves with a harsh, demanding voice inside, constantly reminding ourselves that we’re never good enough. Or telling ourselves "Now, pull yourself together!”.
These are the words we’d never ever say to anyone else, not even to our worst enemy. Are you one of us? Do you ever listen to the voice inside or to how it makes you feel? Self-criticism, researchers have found, can be as stressful as being criticized by someone else.
By practicing self-compassion, you can calm yourself down and cultivate a far more sustainable sense of well-being than the thrive for self-esteem. It does even make you perform better than motivating yourself with your inner critic.
The number of scientific papers on self-compassion has increased exponentially since 2003, when the research was initiated by professor Kristin Neff at the University of Texas. And since Kristin Neff and psychologist Christopher Germer established the program Mindful Self-compassion in 2010, it has spread all over the world. Starting this year, you can become a self-compassion teacher not only in English but in German, Spanish, Chinese and Korean.
In this e-mail course, you will meet these pioneers as a bonus along the way. Swedish author and journalist Agneta Lagercrantz, who has created the Daily Bits of Self-compassion, has interviewed them all: psychology professor Kristin Neff, psychologist and mindfulness instructor Christopher Germer, meditation teacher Tara Brach, MSC- (Mindful Self-compassion) teachers Christine Braehler, Michelle Becker and Steven Hackman. The course is based on Agneta Lagercrantz’s book Self-compassion (in Swedish) and her public talks on the subject.Subscribe now