In my last two Blogs, I talked about becoming more Present to our lives, more Aware of our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations (TFPS). This is one step toward tapping into Everything We Need that we all have inside of us. In this Blog, I want to discuss what to do when we are being more Aware of our TFPS. How do we process the thoughts that we hear ourselves say, the feelings that we are now starting to notice and the way things show up in our bodies as physical sensations? Part of the answer is by Not Judging and having lots of Self-Compassion!!
Not Judging ourselves can be a real challenge…perhaps one of the greatest challenges to becoming more aware of ourselves. If we continually judge/criticize ourselves for things we notice about ourselves, why would we want to continue trying to be more Aware? It’s a subtle thing and something we often learn in childhood, by watching adults around us or by being scolded for our emotions or thoughts. In our own adulthood, we don’t even realize we are doing it. Or we have a vague idea that we “shouldn’t beat ourselves up for stuff” but we keep doing it anyway. One of the most profound things I learned when studying Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is to have NO-JUDGEMENT for the things I notice. As you become more present to your TFPS, you may see things come up that you automatically want to scold yourself for such as:
1. I have no willpower…I ate those cookies at work again!
2. Ugh, I let that family member annoy me again, why can’t I just ignore her?
3. My neck is so tight from all of this stress, why do I let myself get so stressed out?
I’m sure you can list many of your own examples. The point is, judging/beating ourselves up/scolding ourselves when we notice a thought, feeling or physical sensations will not do anything to help us heal, it will just make it worse!!
A really good companion to Not Judging ourselves is to have Self-Compassion for ourselves. Leading expert on Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff, says that “We are kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes or feel inadequate. We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives”. So, as we begin to be more present to the moment and aware of our TFPS, instead of judging what we see, we can be kind and understanding and give ourselves support, just like we would do a friend. Here are some examples:
1. Awareness: I notice that I keep thinking I have no willpower (deep breath):
Instead of saying “I am so weak, why can’t I just resist those cookies”, you can say “Most people struggle to resist the treats. I’m not weak, there are other reasons why I keep eating sugar and I will explore those”
2. Awareness: I am constantly annoyed by that family member (deep breath):
Instead of saying “what is wrong with me that I can’t ignore her and stop being annoyed” you can say “I notice that this person frequently annoys me. It’s ok to be annoyed with people in our lives. I will take some time to explore the nature of my annoyance with her and try to set some boundaries”.
3. Awareness: I notice my neck is tight from stress (deep breath)
Instead of saying “why do I let myself get so stressed out?”, you can say “Oh, I see that my stress is showing up in my neck. That’s ok, we all have places where our stress goes. I’m glad I noticed it and now I can do something to soothe it (massage, warm compress, meditate).
As we begin to incorporate a Mindfulness practice into our Wellness practices, we can practice being aware of our TFPS with no-judgement and lots of self-compassion. The other step in practicing Mindfulness is to have Curiosity about what we notice. I’ll talk about this in the next Blog! If you feel called to add some Mindfulness to YOUR Wellness practices, reach out HERE