Ever noticed that little voice in your head that can be really mean to you? That's your self-critic, a dastardly little fella who may have been running the show for your whole life, often without you even knowing it. Those little pearls such as 'you idiot' or 'why did you say such a stupid thing' or 'you're not good enough' have, at their core, an innocent attempt to keep you 'safe' and out of harm's way. Left to run amok, however, harsh self-criticism can lead to painful feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. Our self-critic can also get in the way of us trying new things or making changes in our lives because not only do we fear other people's response should we fail but, most of all, we fear our own response to our failures. In effect, our once well-meaning self-critic may have turned into an aggressive inner bully, leaving us feeling much the same way as we would in the face of an external bully; miserable, demotivated, and physically and mentally "stressed".
Self-compassion, on the other hand, is about noticing when our inner critic starts up (that's the mindfulness bit), and then learning to comfort and soothe ourselves in the way we might naturally treat a best friend. One simple technique that can help is to practise 'pausing' when you notice that familiar negative self-talk and to simply name it ('oh yes, hello self-critic, thank you for your opinion, I know you are just trying to keep me safe'). Just the simple act of slowing it all down and actively calling time on the familiar beat-up can be powerful. More importantly, by hitting the 'pause' and acknowledging what's happening, we can make space for another voice to make itself heard. This time, though, it's the wiser, kinder voice that naturally would arise if we were talking to a dear friend struggling with a similar problem.
By 'pausing to pause' and actively cultivating a kinder response, slowly, slowly, we are able to free ourselves from the harm we unconsciously do to ourselves by not standing up to own harsh self-judgement. Slowly, slowly, we can stand up tall, putting our own loving arm around our own shoulders as we face our fears, knowing that we are in this together and we are not alone. Slowly, slowly, we find ourselves turning towards what scares us. Slowly, slowly, anxiety and fear abate.