That can be a really hard question to answer. If we're honest, we're often our own worst critics. It's not unusual for people to talk to themselves in a far, far harsher way than they'd speak to anyone else. Why do we do it? Great question, and not one I'm qualified to answer. What I do know, though, is that the more I feel at peace with myself, the more I respect and am kind to myself, the more I have to offer the people around me and the world at large. So it's worth finding a way to cultivate this.
From a mindfulness perspective, when we're being nasty to ourselves, we're simply not being mindful. When I was completing my yoga teacher training, I remember being told that no situation in and of itself is good or bad - it's only our thoughts about it that make it so. This idea shocked me to my core. To think that when we berate, talk down to and criticise ourselves (or anyone else for that matter), we're actually pulling away from the present moment is hard to accept at times. But it's what happens.
What to do? Well, this week I'm going to give loving kindness meditation a burl. The idea behind this practice is to invite feelings of loving kindness to fill you up in this moment. To do this you can choose some simple phrases that encapsulate loving kindness and repeat them to yourself. Then, you can extend this practice as far and wide as you like - to your family, friends, people who have wronged you, strangers and so on. Maybe this sounds a little hippy-dippy to you, but I think it's worth remembering that the way the practice feels is probably more important than what we think of the idea.
The phrases I'm choosing to work with this week are:
May I/you be healthy in body and mind
May I/you be safe and happy
May I/you be peaceful and at ease
I intend to sit for at least five to ten minutes each day, sending this loving kindness messages to myself and others. May it bring me firmly into the present moment.
"If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others." Jon Kabat-Zinn
"When you can love one tree or one flower or one dog or one place, or one person or yourself for one moment, you can find all people, all places, all suffering, all harmony in that one moment." Jon Kabat-Zinn.
You can find a lovely summary about loving kindness meditation (also known as metta) here.