Setting and achieving goals is not an easy task. Sometimes it feels like you are on a hamster wheel.
Tell me about it.
When it comes to achieving goals, there are gazillion reasons why we fail to achieve them. It could be setting unrealistic goals, unpredictable situations, health problems, lack of motivation, planning, etc.
That’s all human and normal. But when things don’t go according to plan, we criticise ourselves hoping that self-criticism will accelerate our success.
I wish for you that by the end of this article (part 1 and part 2), you will change your mind and realise that harsh self-criticism is less effective at achieving goals than self-compassion.
Here’s how self-compassion will help you achieve your goals with more ease.
#1 Mindfulness will set you free
We are often not aware of our thoughts. It’s common for humanity to criticise ourselves when making a mistake, facing a setback, not achieving goals as quickly as we want, or comparing ourselves to others.
We are so used to our inner critic’s voice that we are not even aware when it appears with its harsh criticism. Don’t get me wrong – your inner critic is your friend who helps you stay safe or tries to motivate you. But, well, it just doesn’t know that its methods of encouragement and protection are rather useless.
To become aware of our inner critic, we need to become mindful. Mindfulness is being aware of the moment to moment what’s going on in your head and body. It means being open to the reality of the present moment observing all the thoughts and emotions without resistance or avoidance.
Easier said than done, I know.
When you are aware of your critical thoughts, you can change them. I like to distinguish myself from self-critical thinking by naming the inner critic. My inner critic’s name is Gina. Not sure why Gina, I want the name. I guess.
Have you met Gina yet?
When you give your inner critic the name, you can control it; instead, it controls you. So, when Gina gets laud with “You fuc*ked up everything. You can’t even spell right. You are a loser.” on a good day, I politely say to her, “Thank you, Gina, for keeping me safe and small. But I’ll continue with my imperfections until I master them.” On a bad day, I say to Gina, “Fu’ck off, Gina.”
When you get pretty mindful of your thoughts and emotions and how they determine how you choose to live, it’s time to learn self-kindness.
Related blog post: The No B.S. Guide to Mind Detox
#2 Self-kindness will boost your motivation
There are two ways we beat ourselves up when it comes to achieving our goals:
- When we don’t achieve goals or don’t achieve them as quickly as we thought, the inner critic comes up with, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you do this? You’re a failure.”
- A sense of guilt when we do achieve these goals. The inner critic says, “Do you deserve this? Can you do the job? Is it too good to be true?”
The ability not to over-identify with these thoughts and self-doubts and offer kind words to yourself is key to self-compassion.
Self-compassion is compassion felt towards yourself when you make a mistake or fail at goals. It is an open-minded, non-judgemental attitude towards yourself instead of our usual harsh criticism and severe judgement.
When you make a mistake or fail at achieving goals, you feel isolated. It feels you are the only one incompetent. It’s funny, but the more openly and honestly I speak to other people about it, the more I learn that we all feel the same way.
Kristen Neff, in her research paper Self-Compassion, Achievement Goals and Coping with Academic failure says, “High levels of self-compassion should also be associated with less fear of failure because failure situations are met with kindness and understanding rather than harsh self-condemnation, enabling failure to be seen as a learning opportunity rather than an indictment of self-worth.”
Many people do not acknowledge how emotional pain they are when facing setbacks, mistakes, and failures.
Related blog post: The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Compassion
Were you surprised that self-compassion effectively achieves goals than harsh self-criticism?
When I first wrote this article, it was way too long. Therefore, I’ve decided to split it into two parts. Part 1 – why self-criticism will not help you achieve your goals with ease. Part 2 – how to overcome your inner critic for good.
For now, be mindful of your thoughts and feelings so that you get to know your inner critic well. And don’t forget to name it. Something funny, perhaps?
Take any setbacks or failures as a learning opportunity. And remember this acronym.
F – First
A – Attempt
I – in
L – Learning
Be kind and gentle to yourself when things don’t go as planned or you put too much on your plate – again! You are just a human as we all are.
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