When I speak to groups of students or educators, I make sure to touch on self-compassion as an important part of mindfulness practice. Typically, I begin with the statement above, shortly followed by, “…it’s not working, nor is it doing what you think it is.”
I start my overview of self-compassion with this because the experience of mentally beating oneself up is rather universal in our culture. Just about everyone does it, and I would guess that you do, too. (If you don’t, that is fantastic – keep at it!)
Negative self-talk and the inner critic are so pervasive because many people see it as useful. Some people even resist being gentler with themselves because they think self-flagellation is how they “hold themselves accountable” or “stay in line” or “teach themselves a lesson” when they mess up.
What occurs, in truth, is that we activate our stress response - our heart rate rises, blood pressure goes up, and our cortisol (the stress hormone) levels increase. This elevated state is not one where you can learn any sort of lesson.