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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jenny Schaafsma, PhD

You Are Your Own Worst Critic

"You are your own worst critic," a statement I heard repeatedly growing up.

That phrase was echoed years later by a colleague and friend of mine; yet they followed their statement with, “where is your self-compassion?” I responded with astonishment and confusion; as compassion was a quality that I effortlessly extended to others, yet found hard to apply to myself.

You see, I had bought into all the myths about self-compassion: self-pity, self-indulgence, undermines motivation, a weakness, etc. It was then I discovered the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the study of self-compassion (highly recommend checking out her work at Her ideas quickly corrected these misconceptions and in the process, my clinical and research interests were radically transformed - not to mention the impact on my own personal growth.

My realization of the profound impact of self-compassion on psychological health has manifested itself in various research projects, numerous professional presentations and trainings and tons of conversations with my clients about integrating self-compassion in their lives.

And what is self-compassion? It's the practice of extending kindness towards oneself in order to alleviate suffering.

Interested in increasing your self-compassion? Give these strategies a try sometime!

1) Bring attention to your self-talk. Start to notice when you're being critical of yourself and what you say to yourself. Just noticing, that's all.

2) Challenge yourself to talk to yourself like you would a friend. What would you say to a friend who's in your situation? Most of us would never even dream of saying the things we say to ourselves to even our own worst enemy.

3) Take an intentional self-compassion break. Stop what you're doing and be kind to yourself. Perhaps saying a positive affirming statement to yourself: "I'm doing the best I can." "I am enough." "I got this!" "May I be kind to myself in this moment."

4) If you're looking for more advanced self-compassion strategies, there are several guided self-compassion meditations online or on Insight Timer, a phone app.

Self-compassion is a practice that can be fostered with intentional and repeated practice. We have to strengthen that self-compassion muscle!

And yet, self-compassion is tough! Our inner critic can take over and make uninvited appearances. I too struggle with being compassionate towards myself at times.

A Criticism Storm right here....

Here I was at Panera working on my dissertation which is ON SELF-COMPASSION and the irony is my study buddy caught me in a "criticism storm" over the quality of my dissertation, my writing and my time management skills.

I'm with you. Let's strengthen that self-compassion muscle together!

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