Hello and welcome back to the Therapy Spot! On today’s episode, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Baker. Dr. Baker is a clinical psychologist in Southern California, as well as the creator and host of the Go Friend Your Self podcast. She has experienced, personally and professionally, the impact of being your greatest critic instead of your greatest friend. The benefits include:
- Improved quality of life
- More confidence
- Better connection
Through her practice and her podcast, Dr. Baker provides information and inspiration to help clients and listeners thrive. Needless to say, I was very excited to have her on the Therapy Spot to share her insights with all of you! If you’ve struggled with an especially vocal inner critic, or feelings of shame around Self-care, this podcast is for you.
Dr. Baker’s Journey to “Go Friend Your Self”
Pop quiz! Pretend a coworker just told you, “Wow, you did a fantastic job today.” How are you more likely to reply?
- “How nice of you! Thank you. I worked really hard.”
- “Oh, no no, that’s not true, I made so many mistakes.”
Many of us almost reflexively respond to compliments the second way. We can thank our critics for that! Dr. Baker knows all about that line of thinking. “I relied on perfectionism, control, and criticism to survive grad school. It did help, but it came at a great cost.”
“As I got older, I realized there might be other ways to support myself. …[My friends] helped motivate me and get me to a different place, but in a supportive and kind way.”
We all struggle to be kind to ourselves. But would you want to be friends with someone who spoke to you, the way you speak to yourself? Someone who nitpicks, puts you down, and breaks promises? Your critic might force you to be more productive, but it probably also makes you feel pretty low. Dr. Baker realized that criticism didn’t motivate her — but kind words from her friends did. She decided it was time to be a better friend to herself.
Breaking the Habit and Befriending Yourself
I’m willing to bet that self-criticism is a habit for a lot of you listening. Habits, as we know, are tough to break — it’s hard to switch from harsh criticism to being your own best friend! You don’t need to immediately transition from harsh criticism to lavish praise. You are not entirely awful or entirely flawless — ie, this isn’t black and white. Dr. Baker’s advice? “Go for the gray.”
Do you feel a certain fear about “letting yourself off the hook”? Do you worry that if you’re kind and loving towards yourself, you’ll never get anything done? The truth is, you don’t need to be cruel to hold yourself accountable. With compassion, you can learn from your mistakes. Just think of how you would speak to a close friend who made a mistake.
Punishment can work in the short term, but it doesn’t lead to long-lasting growth and change. Positive reinforcement and compassion, however, can help you learn from your mistakes and make better choices in the future.
Survival, Shame, and Self Care
Dr. Baker helps people with mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy every day. Her true specialty, however, is helping people be their greatest support and friend, not their greatest critic. Ultimately, good Self-care goes hand in hand with being a friend to yourself. “When we receive support from others, I think we feel pretty good. And yet we’re not in the habit of giving that to ourselves.”
Self-care should be the easiest thing in the world, really: of course we want to take care of ourselves. Nobody wants to suffer. Unfortunately, many of us neglect this crucial aspect of our wellbeing. Sometimes we get caught up in stress, hard work, or helping other people. Other times, we almost feel shame about self care. We often mistake putting ourselves first as being selfish rather than being self-focused.
It’s almost a matter of survival: stay busy, please others, and focus outwards.
“Almost every client I worked with didn’t just need [self care] skills, they needed permission to use those skills. A lot of our work revolved around making them realize they deserved the help and support to turn that care inward.”
Remember: you hear your own voice more than anyone else’s. Listen to what that voice says to you. That’s step one. How does it make you feel? Supported, uplifted, and loved? Or belittled, shamed, and trapped? You deserve the compassion and kindness that you show to others.
Finally, I’d like to give a big shout-out to those of you who became my patrons over the last two weeks. So to Katie, Peter, Lysanne, Liz, and Kelly — thank you so much for supporting me, and helping me continue to create these podcasts. If you’d like to do the same, please check out my Patreon page and consider becoming a patron.