I’ve got your back…
Recently, I was teaching a course and doing a session on self-talk. What I mean by self-talk is the little or not so little voice that internally narrates our life for us. This voice provides a running commentary on the mundane, the drama, the people who we live with, the people who we don’t live with, our deepest wishes and our deepest fears. This voice holds center stage and has the power to shape and influence whether we just barely survive, or indeed thrive. In fact, Prof. Paul Gilbert, founder of Compassion Focused Therapy and co- author (with our very own Choden) of Mindful Compassion, once told me that the single most important factor in our ability to transform our lives is the voice that we use with ourselves.
While I was teaching about the importance of cultivating a kind, friendly voice for ourselves, I invited the course participants to draw a picture of what this voice might look like. I mentioned that this was a chance to be creative, to let their inhibitions go. However, the moment I revealed my own picture, I started with the declaration- “Sorry everyone, I am not very good at drawing”. Jinx- I caught myself! Just as I was teaching on the importance of cultivating a kind inner voice, I was vocalizing a negative one. We all had a good laugh and appreciated that my self- effacement was a shared one and this blip highlighted the fact that, actually, changing the voice that we use with ourselves can be hard work and it needs practice. The most important thing is to not beat yourself up when things go awry.
This not beating myself up has been a game changer for me and it completely relies on the voice that I am using with myself. Of course, negative self-talk is going to slip in there. I have nearly 40+++ years of conditioning for it to do so. However, if I touch in with myself throughout my day or at the end of my day with simple questions such as ‘How am I doing?’, ‘What do I need?’ and perhaps most importantly, ‘Do I have my back?’, the kindness and self-compassion starts to flow a little bit easier. I start to feel cared for in a way that no one else can do for me. It actually feels quite empowering.
I invite you to give it a try and see how you get on. What is it like to ask yourselves these questions and even to touch in with them regularly? Remember, the most important thing is to not beat yourself up if you struggle to remember or if that inner voice feels a bit harsh. By giving ourself a break, even when things go awry, we are cultivating kindness and self-compassion.
If this is inspiring you to go a bit further, we have our Level 1: Being Present course (Starts 12 October on Thursday evenings) that explores these themes through our compassion based mindfulness training. If you have already completed the Level 1: Mindfulness, why not take join us for our Level 2: Compassion course that starts on October 30th. It is a wonderful opportunity to provide the structure and maintain the commitment to truly change the voice that we use with ourselves. If we can be compassionate to ourselves, we can start to be more compassionate to those all around us.