Monday, April 11, 2016

3 Ways To Turn Your Inner-Critic Into An Encourager

Tests bring out the critic in each of us. I would categorize myself as an awful test taker. Words were always my strength, choosing the right bubble not so much.
My inner-critic came out most during Art History exams in college. For these exams we were required to know the name of the artwork, the artist, and date of creation for hundreds of pieces per test. Hundreds - this is not an exaggeration! In preparation I'd hole up in the library for an 8 hour study binge leading up to the 3 p.m. exams. 
Building up to and following those exams my inner-critic ran rampant with my emotions. So you can imagine how my inner-critic made himself known when I failed a test recently. In my Living Brave class with Brene Brown, she challenged us to take a self-compassion test from Kristin Neff. And I failed. I failed the self-compassion test.

Pretty quickly the warm wash of worry overcame me and that inner-critic started stomping on my joy. The truth of it is, years after overcoming my war with depression, I still battle self-compassion on a daily basis. More than not, my worst critic is myself.

I think it's time we open the conversation on self-compassion within the Christian community. Certainly we can’t expect to serve well in any capacity if we’re not first tending to ourselves. Hear me out: it's okay for us to need to work on us.

A heart deficient of self-compassion breeds shame, anxiety and overwhelm. Let's make intentional effort to increase self-compassion to turn our inner-critic into an encourager of Wholehearted joy.

So what exactly is self-compassion? It’s speaking to ourselves with empathy rather than anger, and choosing grace in place of judgment. Self-compassion is not a permission slip to continue in sin or complacency, but an opportunity to live the life of grace and growth God calls us to. Through self-compassion we sideline overwhelm, calm anxiety, and deepen healthy relationships with ourselves and others.

We may battle with self-compassion on a daily basis, but there are simple action steps we can make to overcome the fight for simply being kind to ourself.

Know your worth.
According to Brene, wholehearted joy stems from engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. When we define our worth we begin the conversation of self-compassion. When we look to scripture it doesn't take long to learn our worth is found in Jesus. In Christ we are made new and can move boldly before the throne with confidence in our worth to God.
Truth: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Shift your perspective on self-talk.
There’s a fine line between giving yourself constructive criticism, and down right holding yourself in contempt. The joy in your life is a direct result of the quality of your thoughts.

Remember this, in Jesus, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The Gospel is the permission slip of self-compassion we've been seeking! Of all the people who could point fingers and call out the ugliness of our sin, it should be God. Instead, He covers us with grace upon grace. Let’s take a lesson from Him on this one, shall we?
Truth: Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Put self-compassion into practice.
Maybe you’re like me and have made great strides in self-compassion, but recently realized there’s still a ways to go before self-compassion dwells deep in your bones. Resilience in the daily routine will be built upon putting self-compassion into practice. It won't be perfect, but it will be progress. God enters into our mess and celebrates along side of us with each baby step of self-compassion. Every small step matters; If you fall, dust yourself off, practice self-compassion and keep going. 
Truth: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Allow self-compassion to be a starting point of wholehearted joy in your story. The world has enough critics, let’s stop being our own worst critic.

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