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  • Peg Hunt

A Truer Definition of Self-Care

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. ~Buddha

When we think about self-care, we often think about taking time for spiritual practices, hobbies, time with friends, a massage, or walking in nature. However, more broadly, and I think more profoundly, self-care is about making room for all parts of us—the parts we like and are proud of and the parts that make us struggle or that are self-critical. This is especially important when we may have made a mistake, had a conflict with a friend, or are feeling down. These situations often trigger our most negative thoughts about ourselves.

We all know that negative self-talk is destructive, and our rational approach is often to ignore or silence it. However, the more we try to ignore the self-critical parts the more insistent those parts can become. When we become aware of negative self-talk, we can treat it as an opportunity to explore, with compassion, what is happening in ourselves. Listening with compassion might include:

  • Acknowledge the negativity we are feeling (I just noticed that I labeled my feelings as “weird” which discounts how I feel).

  • Explore what is happening in the body as the critical voice emerges (for example, anxious in your stomach, tightness in your neck, or a feeling in another part of your body?) Listening is the first step towards compassion.

  • Ask, what is the purpose or concern of the critical part? Often the purpose of criticism is to protect us from something unpleasant (e.g., failure, losing love or esteem, etc.). When we understand what these self-critical parts want for us, we can assess whether we are really at risk or are there different ways to address the concern. We can choose a strategy that moves us closer to where we want to be. For example, besides beating ourselves up over saying the wrong thing to a friend, we can remind ourselves that our relationship is not defined by that single mistake. Another approach when you hear that critical voice, is to think about how you would advise a friend in the same situation.

  • Give yourself credit for listening and trying a new way to respond to the critical voice.

Silencing the parts of ourselves that are self-critical requires continually expending energy not to hear (or to ignore). In contrast, listening and paying attention to why the self-critical voice is triggered, allows us to address the underlying need so we don’t have to keep expending energy ignoring our negative self-talk. Compassion and caring for our whole self begins with listening to all the parts of us, whether they make us feel good or proud or whether they make us struggle, all parts have important things to tell us and therefore are worthwhile and valuable. The next time you are yearning for self-care, take a minute to see if there is a voice you are ignoring that needs some attention.

If you are someone who struggles with negative self-talk, coaching may help. Contact me at for a free consultation to see if coaching is right for you.

Copyright Peg Hunt & Anne Garing

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