Perception is reality. How many times have we achieved something or received praise for our work and felt good for a bit, only to have our self-esteem drop again?
According to meditation teacher and New York Times best-selling author, Sharon Salzberg, our personal view of things can be compared to “looking at the sky through a straw.”
The problem lies within how you relate to yourself and how much you buy into your own negative thoughts. Often times, our mind is wrong about a lot of things. The more self-critical we are, the more negatively we start to perceive ourselves.
Highly self-critical people are more likely to experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, Kristin Neff, self-compassion researcher, and associate professor in Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin, reported.
A technique suggested by Psychologist Christa Smith, Psy.D, to lessen the effect of your negative thought patterns is to say: “I’m having the thought that (insert thought),” when a negative thought crosses your mind.
That way, you practice seeing your thoughts as just thoughts, not reality. Smith practices this technique with her clients to help them take their negative thoughts less seriously and make the shift needed to overcome low self-esteem.
While some people think being hard on yourself is good for you, self-compassion is argued to be a more healthy way to relate to yourself.
Self-compassion allows you to practice mindfulness while acknowledging negative thought patterns. It allows you to relate to yourself with kindness. Self-compassion leads to self-love and self-love is more conducive to achieving goals than is self-criticism.
A blog post by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times cited a study done by Dutch researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The study explored the role of mindfulness in consistent exercise enthusiasts. It was published in the Journal of Health Psychology.