We all have it…that part of ourselves that is the critic. It tells us what we should have or should not have done in almost any situation ( “if only I would have…” “I really could have…” ). For some of us this voice helps us do our best work, or keeps us healthy and safe. But when is it too harsh? When does it shut us down, berate us, and get in the way of personal or professional growth? What do we do with the critic who comments on our mistakes in a cruel way, calls us names (“stupid” or” lazy” for example), negatively influencing our thoughts and feelings about ourselves? Is this critic a a good friend giving constructive feedback or our worst enemy?

Dr. Laurel Parnell suggests that instead of wanting to ignore or get rid of this voice, we should get to know it, and view it with compassion. Befriending it, we can learn the purpose behind it. Could it be just trying to protect us? Helping us be more productive or healthy versions of ourselves? If we can view it more objectively, we may be able to tease out the helpful part and “turn down the volume” on any negative, hurtful aspect.

One movement-based intervention we can do to support this act of self -compassion is as follows:

  1. Start my sitting or standing, gently lowering your gaze and focusing in on your breathing, accepting it as is.
  2. Think of something the self critic tells you.
  3. Acknowledge the content.
  4. Now take both arms and hands, bring them close to your chest, and extend them in front of you, gently pushing out slowly any negative tone/thoughts/feelings that came with the content. Exhale as you push out.
  5. Now as you inhale bring your arms and hands into your chest slowly. Imagine you are gathering the helpful thought of content with kindness and love.
  6. Repeat this movement series (pushing out, gathering in) 5 times, focusing on kindness and self- compassion.

I hope that this exercise brings you some peace. I encourage you to find small ways everyday to be patient with yourself and give yourself the love and kindness you deserve.

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