Art Therapy Studio Chicago, Ltd.
Author: Tricia Morales ATR, LCPC
Many who struggle with an eating disorder, depression or anxiety are distracted by an inner dialogue. We all have an inner critic who sometimes helps us make better choices or to guide us and protect us, although for some the inner critic can be strong and get in the way of daily functioning. Some people daily deal with a critic that is harsh, cruel, self-defeating, blaming, and persistently negative. It is possible to build patience, and over time practice to begin learning new ways to build a different relationship with yourself. Doing so involves learning to acknowledge a thought for a thought, may not always based on reality, and to accept our natural human tendency of thinking towards a negative evaluation. True change comes by way in which you experience your life comes from shifting your perspective of seeing little things you go through day to day from a different lens.
Working with individuals with eating disorders I have come to know the commonality of the inner critic who takes over, leaving little room left for self-compassion. Acknowledging the areas of life that bring you meaning can help you start to know where to find self-compassion in taking the first steps towards connecting with these areas of joy. If you feel unworthy of self-compassion it is time to explore your experience of worthiness historically and start writing a new dialogue for yourself. Here are some things to guide you in your steps toward change:
1. Write a letter to yourself from an imaginary compassionate and validating friend about a specific area you critique yourself. To find more prompts read Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, 2015.
2. When your inner critic flares up practice turning the mind towards a more rational stance on the topic.
3. Set an intention to explore self-compassion through art making and allow yourself to approach the art materials with curiosity and openness to spending time on yourself.
4. Practice being kind to those areas of your body you notice yourself continuously judging by getting a massage, putting on lavender lotion, taking a bath, or taking a mindful walk and care for your body in all it does for you.
5. Intentionally share the peaks of your day with those around you when you notice your desire to vent or complain about what is not going well.
6. Find a non-judgmental listener to share your current challenges.
7. Remind yourself our minds are wired towards negative perception of events and challenge yourself to find an alternative more neutral perspective.
8. Sit on a park bench or eat lunch in the sun during your lunch break and enjoy your part of the day.
9. Identify personal goals for meaningful projects and take time once or twice a week to check off objectives towards those goals.
10. Affirm yourself for the work you do in all areas of your life especially on those days when you feel like you are treading water.
Join me, Tricia Morales, LCPC, ATR at Art Therapy Studio Chicago (art-therapist.org) to create art as part of your practice of self-compassion. Try taking one hour a week to begin caring for yourself in a new way and see the difference it makes in the way you feel overall.
Dr. Mary Andrus DAT, ATR-BC, LCPC