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Learning to Listen to the Kind Friend

Can I be nice to myself and be productive at the same time? It's easy to believe that if you are nice to yourself, you won't be motivated to work. Self-compassion dispels this myth. There are two voices in our head, which are the inner critic and the kind friend. The inner critic encourages harshness and an attitude of never changing. The kind friend encourages motivation and getting back up after falling down. Self-compassion teaches us to listen more fully to the kind friend through helping one to recognize negative thinking, not feel alone during suffering, and to encourage kind, encouraging thoughts.

Mindfulness is one of the three pillars of self-compassion. When we ground ourselves to the present moment and acknowledge what we currently feel, we begin to listen to what our thoughts are saying (rather than simply react). Once we begin listening, we can choose to either believe the message or not believe it. Bringing this choice to light is the first step to embracing the voice of the kind friend.

Common humanity, or realizing you are not alone in your suffering, is the next pillar. We all feel sad, lonely, and afraid at times. When you experience common humanity, you realize I am just like you and you are just like me. Once you realize that other people feel the same way you do, you begin letting go of your critical despair and accept your suffering. This is followed open your heart to healing.

The third pillar is self-kindness. When you learn to replace negative thinking with kind thoughts, or phrases that you would encourage a friend with, you begin to see that life is not so bad. There is room to make mistakes and grow. Talking kind to yourself is a skill. Just like playing an instrument or learning to dance, it takes consistent practice. At first, the kind friend voice might be faint. However, as you practice saying kind phrases to yourself, even though it may feel cheesy at first, you will start hearing the kind, motivating friend louder and louder.

A friend of mine had a simple, beautiful experience that describes the process of recognizing the three pillars of self-compassion. She borrowed a cookbook she liked from a friend, and book was so small that she decided to simply photocopy the book instead of write all the recipes down. When the friend asked for the cookbook back, my friend told told the owner that she made a copy of the recipes. The friend became distressed and told her that the author of the cookbook (another friend) had specifically told her to not make copies of the recipes. My friend was mortified and embarrassed. She critiqued herself for losing her moral compass and wondered why she made such a dumb mistake. She listened to this critic in her head for several weeks. What should have been labeled as a simple mistake became a huge mountain of shame. After weeks of living with the inner critic, my friend decided to adjust her perspective. She began labeling her critic as a negative thought. She realized that other people make mistakes too and that she was not alone. She told herself she was still a good person despite making a mistake, and, probably better now because of it. She soon learned that the mistake did not define her, forgave herself, moved through the embarrassment, and learned that mistakes do not destroy a moral compass.

Learning to hear the kind friend voice and become more productive with your feelings is possible when you learn to practice self-compassion. We are holding a self-compassion workshop on June 15th with the goal of doing just this, and we would love to see you there! If you are interested, you will find more details in the link below.

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