Without intending malice, parents and teachers often leave a scarred battlefield behind them. “How could you?” “Why didn't you?” “You should have...” “What is wrong with you?” “You couldn't possibly have...” These admonishments stick. They borrow into the deepest recesses of your brain. Then, when you are trying to motivate yourself to do your best or do more, they slip out and chide you in the exact tone that your mom, dad, grandparent, teacher, or clergy used with you when you were young.
The shamer and blamer has become you. So, the important question is: How do you shift from that learned behavior to one that is more effective? Self-compassion is the beginning of the shift.
It starts with something like, “Hey, just because my mom or dad talked to me like this, I don't have to do the same. I can be kinder to myself and that's okay. And besides, I'm allowed to have a margin of error. I don't have to even try to be perfect. It's okay to put my best effort in and not go for perfection.”
Then to bring in some compassion toward and understanding of your parents like, “They didn't know any better. They were doing their best to raise me to be a great person. They had no idea that what they were saying pierced my heart so deeply. I can forgive them, love them, and speak to myself differently. That's my job now.”
Then, there is always the angle of talking to yourself like this: “You know you accomplish more when you feel good, when you're happy and joyful. Shaming and blaming yourself just makes you shut down. If you are positive, you'll be happier and then it will be easier to move forward.”
Using any of the ideas above or any others that get you out of the survive side of your brain to the thrive side is the first step.
Then, moving into practice is the second. Check out these practices: Your Short List of Positive Self-Talk, Questions for a Thrive Path, Positive Conversations...in Your Head, and Getting Back on the Road and choose one to start doing.
Here's where self-compassion comes in again. You've had a lifetime of practicing being hard on yourself and probably not that much time practicing self-talk that really helps you feel great, do good things for yourself, and actually change the architecture of your brain. As you practice self-compassion, you will be in the midst of what is called self-directed neuroplasticity. When you practice something new, your brain works to develop new synaptic connections so that you literally grow your brain. The old connections don't go away. They are embedded deeply in your brain. But, you can develop new networks that can get stronger and stronger with practice. Over time, self-compassion can become your go to self-motivation program.