Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Use your self-criticism to nurture self-compassion

“Michelle is offering a free intro Nonviolent Communication at church.”

Sounds neutral, yes? And yet, all your jackal ears are pricked up. Turned inwards.

Image courtesy to David Nayer

Remember the jackal? The animal that’s the Nonviolent Communication symbol for all the criticism, judgments, evaluations, labels, and blame?

Well, you can be perfectly able to empathize with others in a compassionate, generous, and open-hearted way, and have BIG judgments of yourself.

In fact, I have found many people who are drawn to Nonviolent Communication experts at empathizing with others, and blaming themselves.

After hearing that Michelle is offering a free intro at the church, my internal monologue would be something like this: “Of course she is teaching. She should do that, she is a fantastic, inspirational teacher. Lots of people will show up, and become NVC-converts because of her. She is WAY better than you, little loser. You just sit there in the corner of the room, whining that only two, maybe three people show up at your classes. And those are losers too, people who have absolutely no one else to turn to, otherwise they would not chose you.” (Sometimes inward jackals invite outward jackals, just to reinforce their point. They are highly collaborative in that way, and offer their support eagerly.) “You’re never gonna make it, and you’ll never be recognized and appreciated for your qualities, which were not much to begin with.”

This would just be the beginning. I could go on like this for a VERY long time. Self-criticism is a well-developed pattern I have, and one I’m not ashamed of at all. Isn’t that amazing? We would probably NEVER talk like that to someone else. We wouldn’t have the guts. But with ourselves we are okay with it. Brené Brown, Edward Teyber, and Bert Hellinger wrote about why we do this. I want to focus on what we can do with this.

Actually, it is quiet simple. You listen deeply to yourself. You guess what your inward jackals are trying to tell you. Maybe you feel sad, because you wished you had more people in your class? Because that would convey that you add value, and bring you the appreciation and acknowledgment you long for? Maybe you feel scared, because you are afraid you’ll never receive this appreciation? Maybe frustrated that you don’t have enough self-confidence to step up to the plate and get out there?

After your guesses, you listen to their response. If your guesses are right, they will relax, and allow you to be in touch with your pain. If they don’t, you might guess more. The truth is that jackal ears inward are a HUGE help to understand what’s important to you. They’ll tell you straightforward where you’re stuck, what you aspire, and how you need support. Keep them on for a while, and deepen your self-compassion.


You want help to translate your inner jackals into self-empathy? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.