By Holly LeMaster

What would you hear if you could stream your self-talk to a Bluetooth device? Kind, loving words of self-encouragement and acknowledgement, or harsh, biting judgement and criticism?

The extraordinarily challenging times we find ourselves in require us to be there for ourselves as much as we show up for others. And a vital component of self-care is self-compassion: essentially, being as gentle and empathetic toward ourselves as we are toward other people.

Stop and consider for a moment: most of us can relate to hearing a constant narrative of thought running in the background of our consciousness. Chances are, this inner critic might say things like, “That was a stupid thing to say,” “I should have done more,” “I’m not good enough,” or even go so far as, “I’m a bad person.” These are things that most of us would never consider saying to another person, yet we still allow these self-attacks to run rampant.

True self-care includes becoming aware that you’re having these thoughts, then interrupting the pattern and replacing them with more positive and appreciative messages to yourself. Self-compassion is a skill that can be learned. And when we replace self-criticism with self-understanding and accept that, as humans, we will inevitably make mistakes, the compassion we extend to others also deepens and becomes more genuine.

Learning to recognize and quell the voice of the inner critic is a practice. If you’re ready to hush yours, try this activity:

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First, set an intention to work on building empathic concern and caring for yourself.

Put a visual cue in a place you will see it regularly throughout the day—a reminder for you to check in with yourself and bring presence of mind to your thoughts or circumstances. For example, you could wear a loose rubber band or string around your wrist, put a post-it near your computer monitor, or set a reminder on your phone.

Tune in to yourself and notice when the inner critic is judging or putting you down. Ask yourself: is this the way I would talk to a good friend? What would I say to a friend instead? Try speaking those words out loud to yourself—bonus points for looking at yourself in the mirror while you do it. Or write them down.

See if you can catch and interrupt your inner critic at least once a day with mindful self-compassion.

If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into self-compassion, I highly recommend Dr. Kristin Neff’s terrific work.