Dear Dr. Tracy:...
I know that I am hard on myself and have low self esteem. How can I learn to be nicer to myself?
"What's the matter with you?" "Don't be so lazy!" "Why are you such a loser?!"
This is the familiar voice of the Inner Critic. The Inner Critic is essentially a habit of thinking that is like a tape being played on a loop. The thoughts we have about ourselves influence our lives in profound ways. So how we do we change this lifelong habit of berating and belittling ourselves? Read on!
1). Just notice it
I had a wonderful therapist a as young woman who taught me that the first step to better self esteem is to increase my awareness of harsh self talk. Before you can change it, you have to recognize it. You can do this using a technique I call "red flagging." Simply set the intention to NOTICE the inner critic and when you do, see a red flag in your mind to mark it. When you begin practicing this technique, you will be amazed at the number of "red flags" that pop up in your mind throughout the day.
2). Say it differently
Once you notice the harsh self-talk, change it to sound more like it would if you were speaking to a small child you love and want to guide. Using this technique, "You're a fat slob" may become, "I care about you and I want you to be healthy!"
3). Make it a priority
The work of changing your self talk from critical to compassionate takes practice - you can't change a lifelong habit overnight. By consistently practicing these steps, you will develop a NEW habit of relating to yourself in a kind and supportive manner. When you do that, you open the door to self-love and happiness!