Moving from Self-Criticism to Self- Empathy
Sometimes it seems like self-critical thoughts (jackals*) have a highway in your head. One way to lessen traffic on the jackal highway is to build a whole new highway. Your jackal highway may have been built over decades with input from family, school, religion, or mainstream culture. Building a new highway will require your own intention and commitment.
Building this new highway of self-respect and acceptance provides the foundation that supports a consistent practice of self-empathy in the face of jackals.
At one level building this highway can be quite basic.Imagine you had saved money for years to visit to Spain and finally the time was drawing near. If you wanted to get the most out of your visit, you would begin constructing a highway to Spain in your own mind before you go. You might begin learning to speak Spanish. You might study Spanish history, music, and art.You might talk to people in your community who have lived there. You might research Spain's geography and natural phenomena. By the time you arrive in Spain, you are a ready sponge for your experience there.
You can apply the same idea to building a highway of self-respect and acceptance. Every day feed your mind with words and experience that reflect an unassailable sense of self-respect. I am not talking about a once a day affirmation. If you really want to put in a highway, it's going to take some time and effort. When I went through my own process of building this highway, I wrote pages and pages of affirmations and empowering core beliefs everyday. I read and listened to books that supported this kind of thinking and knowing. I began cultivating behaviors that reflected respect for my body like flossing, exercising, and eating lots of vegetables. I spent time with people who modeled self-respect and supported my process. Slowly I began to drop friendships and associations that didn't consistently honor me or our relationship.I attended workshops, meditation retreats, and sought out counseling. I chose only entertainment (music, movies, art) that was in alignment with my intention. I knew that training my mind to naturally move in the direction of self-honor would require undoing some 25 years (and possibly countless lifetimes) of jackal consciousness. Seeing clearly that this foundation of self-honor was essential to offering help to others and enjoying my life I was and am determined to cultivate it.
Today I work to maintain this highway through basic daily practices of mindfulness, qigong, meditation, journaling, reading, and connecting with my community.
If the jackal highway is a regular part of your daily experience, begin constructing your own self-respect highway by committing to at least one practice every day this week toward cultivating a foundation of self-honor.
*jackal refer to any language or thoughts that disconnect us from life.
***click here for a list of feelings and universal needs