7 Simple Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself by experts – Since childhood, chances are you’ve been expected to be nice to others; to “treat them how you want to be treated,” presumably with kindness and respect. But why do so many people (myself included) struggle to apply this golden rule to themselves?

We talk a lot about self-compassion at SELF—how it can help you move past your mistakes, for example, improve your relationship with food and movement, and accept yourself overall.

But being kind to yourself—especially when you feel like a failure—is often easier said than done. Instead, the default for many of us is to be our own worst critic: You always mess up. Everybody else has their life together—except you. You’re not doing enough. Sound familiar?

7 Simple Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself, According to Experts

That little mean voice in your head is not your friend, and it can hold you back from positive change and inner peace, Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast, tells SELF. “It’s hard when that inner critic is so loud that it tunes out the wiser, more compassionate part of ourselves, which really gets activated when we’re talking to a friend and offering them kindness in a way that comes really easily,” Dr. Gooden says.

Learning to drown out self-criticism by turning up the volume on that kinder inner wisdom isn’t easy, but it is worth it. You might think that being hard on yourself will make you more humble, say, or that it’ll motivate you to be better, but it actually tends to work against you, according to Dr. Gooden. In fact, 2019 research found that having self-compassion can buffer the mental health consequences of self-criticism, such as stress and depressive symptoms. And one study published in 2009 suggests that people with high levels of self-compassion may be more likely to feel happy and optimistic about the future, even in situations of perceived failure and rejection.

So how do you actually show yourself kindness in a way that doesn’t feel cliché or inauthentic? When self-compassion doesn’t come naturally, consider these practical ways to give yourself a break.

1. Confront your inner critic.

We all have one, but you may not even recognize when yours is infiltrating your thoughts. The first step toward showing yourself more kindness is observing the toxic voice in your head, Andrea Bonior, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Baggage Check podcast, tells SELF. Whenever you start comparing yourself to others, say, or blaming yourself for a work mistake or some other misstep, stop for a second and think about what you’re actually saying to yourself.

“For some people, negative self-talk is so pervasive that it’s like the water they’re swimming in,” Dr. Bonior says. “They don’t recognize that it’s even there, whether it’s negative body image or just being harsh in other ways.” Simply noticing what your inner bully is saying—and even acknowledging it by writing it down or by trying a journaling alternative like voice notes—puts you in a better position to begin to challenge and quiet those thoughts, she adds.

2. Treat yourself like you would a close friend—or your childhood self.

Let’s say your best friend is feeling insecure after a bad day at work. Would you call them a failure? Tell them they’re incompetent at their job? Insist that they don’t deserve their promotion after one mistake? Chances are, you’d never talk to your friends or family the way you may talk to yourself. So why don’t you deserve the same treatment?

A good rule of thumb when it comes to practicing self-kindness, according to Dr. Gooden: If you wouldn’t say it to a friend who’s going through a rough time, don’t say it to yourself either. When someone you care about slips up or makes a poor-taste comment, for example, you probably respond with compassion and understanding (versus telling them you can’t believe they did that and/or that everyone probably thinks they suck). Try to do the same for yourself, Dr. Gooden suggests.

Now if you’re thinking, I’m the skeptical, blunt friend who “keeps it real” (even if it isn’t always so nice), then this tactic may not work as well for you. Instead, Dr. Gooden recommends another self-compassion strategy: Considering your inner child as you practice positive self-talk. You can hang up a photo of your innocent, five-year-old self on your mirror (or set it as your phone background) and remind that little person that they’re going to be okay, for example, or that they don’t deserve those unkind words (and neither do you). “We know babies are unconditionally worthy of care and respect,” Dr. Gooden says. “They have not accomplished anything yet, but that doesn’t make any of us think that they are unworthy.” With practice, viewing yourself through a similarly supportive lens can help you lose the negative self-talk, she adds.

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 3. Make mindfulness a part of your daily routine.

Mindfulness is ultimately about checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling without judgment, which is a great way to foster self-kindness, according to Dr. Gooden.

“One of the ways we can be unkind to ourselves is by ignoring what we’re feeling physically and emotionally and just telling ourselves to push through,” she says. “Even the acknowledgment of these feelings shows a level of kindness.”

Yoga classes, meditation apps, and deep breathing exercises are popular ways to practice mindfulness, but they’re not the only options. Sometimes, grounding yourself in the present can be as simple as paying attention to your body’s sensations (maybe before, during, or after a meal) or sitting with the discomfort of your emotions and acknowledging them head-on. In whatever form, paying more attention to your inner world, without judging yourself, is an act of self-compassion in itself, Dr. Gooden reiterates.

4. Remind yourself that mistakes are part of being human—and dwelling on them won’t do you any favors.

It can be helpful to acknowledge your mistakes in order to move forward, but ruminating about a perceived failure will just keep you stuck, Dr. Gooden says. The reality is that to err is only human; it’s not preventable, which is why learning to accept your missteps and move on is a much more useful strategy.

To make that acceptance a bit easier, Dr. Gooden suggests trying to separate your errors from your worth. Just because that one date didn’t go as well as you planned doesn’t mean you’re undateable—and, more importantly, it definitely doesn’t mean you don’t deserve love. “Mistakes are something that all of us experience, and it’s important to remember that they don’t make us unworthy,” Dr. Gooden says. “We’re still worthy of love, of care, and of taking up space and being alive.”

And if you’re someone who thinks lambasting yourself is a strong motivator, the evidence is not on your side. “People often feel like criticizing themselves is going to help them overcome failure,” Dr. Gooden adds, but research suggests it can actually destroy your self-esteem and prevent you from reaching your goals.

5. Make sure to focus on positive stuff too.

The human brain has a natural tendency to fixate on the bad. For instance, you’ll probably remember that criticism from your parents more than the praise for your many accomplishments; that one embarrassing comment you made at a party more than the fun you had overall. In order to counteract this “negativity bias,” it can be helpful to put your “bad” moments into perspective by consciously focusing on the positive.

If you’re down on yourself for letting a friend down, for example, you can think about or write down three times you were there for that person. Or, if you can’t think of anything positive about the situation you’re fixating on, you can get more general and note a few things you’re grateful for in your life to help shift your focus away from the negative, says Dr. Bonior.

Positive affirmations are another way to challenge the negative narrative in your head and remind yourself of your worth. It might feel silly at first, but “after a while when you start repeating them you begin to recognize, ‘Maybe this does make sense. Maybe I am as worthy as anybody else, and I deserve to give myself some grace that I would automatically give to other people,’” Dr. Bonior says. If you’re not sure where to start, try some optimistic yet realistic phrases like, “I have what I need to succeed” or “I am in charge of how I feel, and right now I choose peace.”

6. If self-affirmations aren’t for you, do an activity you enjoy.

If complimenting yourself or giving yourself a pep talk feels unnatural and scriptlike, that’s totally okay. Instead, Dr. Gooden suggests replacing your negative thinking with an activity that gets you out of your head and leaves you feeling soothed. For example, if you’re drawn to nature, you can go outside on a leisurely walk and tune into your surroundings. If you prefer to express yourself with art, maybe try an adult coloring book. Or maybe you love to blast a throwback playlist and dance around your living room with abandon.

What you do doesn’t matter so much, as long as it allows you to shift your focus away from self-criticism. “Generally doing things that ground you in the present moment can be very helpful to give you some relief from all of the mind activity,” Dr. Gooden explains.

7. Remember that self-compassion is not selfish.

Self-kindness involves making yourself a priority. And no, that doesn’t make you a selfish person. “I think many of us, women especially, believe on some level that we should be there for others first and foremost, and that every minute we spend taking care of ourselves takes away from helping other people,” Dr. Bonior says. However, the reality is that treating yourself with compassion will only make it easier to be physically and emotionally present for your loved ones, she adds. It’s kind of like a muscle: The more you exercise kindness and care in your own life, the more you have the physical, mental, and emotional strength to show up as your best self for others

That said, you don’t need a reason—even one as beautiful as wanting to be there for others—to be kinder to yourself. You, as much as anyone else, deserve kindness for the simple fact that you’re alive. Give yourself a break. Take good care of yourself. Things may not always go the way you want, but you still deserve compassion. We all do.

Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by shalw

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