In order to develop a felt sense of well-being, be more effective in general, and become empowered in relationships, one primary capacity is to be able to see one’s role in the problems we encounter, including relationship problems. However, it can be very difficult to see one’s role, or flaws and “weaknesses” without self-devaluation or projecting blame outside of the self – both of which have destructive consequences.
- Self-devaluation can take the form of “I feel inadequate,” or worse, as in “I’m not good enough,” I’m a bad person,” – all of which can cause excessive anxiety, anger, and depression which are not only painful feelings, but are also debilitating.
- This reflects the core wound – in effect the underlying belief “I am unworthy to be loved,” “if people really knew me they would reject me,” and so on – that we often see in our practice and in the world around us that cause such distress and dysfunction.
- People in our culture tend to be perfectionistic and build self-esteem based too much on performance. With that kind of mindset it’s easy to see how people would get defensive and want to project blame when problems arise. One unfortunate result of this in relationships, is that relationship conflicts become unsolvable and the process itself undermines the relationship further, encouraging loss of self-esteem and more defensiveness in a vicious cycle.
How can I accept the Self with its strength and weaknesses to find some peace of mind and see clearly?
There are many skillful ways to undo this core tendency and heal:
- The change process begins with awareness – simply noticing or “observing” that you’re having a self-critical thought along with the associated uncomfortable feelings. This is opposed to the usual experience of getting lost in that thought and feeling as if that’s just reality. With simple awareness, you’re now in a position to do something about that painful state.
- Self-Compassion: Many people treat their friends, their partners (in a relationship that’s going well), even their pets better than they treat themselves. So change the pattern – catch the negative self-talk and introduce more supportive thoughts. Develop an internal nurturing parental voice. Limits can still be set with the self in a kind way. Without distracting and debilitating thoughts and emotions, effective problem solving can take place as part of healthy ego function, leading to good outcomes.
- Seek support outside of the self to gain support and perspective: When you are ready, turn to others you trust and reveal some of these inner doubts and inadequacies, so you can receive acceptance and support, and gain perspective on the whole person that you are.
- Seek a healthy form of detachment around self-critical thoughts: Watch thoughts and feelings come and go. This is a strategy that is more in the Mindfulness ball park. We will say more about this in another blog.
Learn more about undoing the harsh inner critic. We invite you to make an appointment with one of our therapists.