Do you ever call yourself names like ‘idiot or ‘loser’? Do you ever berate yourself for your mistakes in your head over and over again? Ever push your body and mind way past the point of tired and hungry, till you’re almost about to collapse in a heap? If so, you’re not alone. Harsh self-talk and the subtle aggression of pushing ourselves through is pretty common.
It’s worth knowing though, that a mean or critical inner dialogue or attitude towards ourselves can create a lot of tension, anxiety and heartache. We also often experience feelings of unworthiness when we ‘beat ourselves up’ or put ourselves down. We get sick, depleted and tired when we push ourselves too hard.
Many people believe that if they don’t crack the whip with a harsh self-talk they won’t be motivated to make changes and achieve goals but the research (1) shows just the opposite. Self-limiting or destructive thought processes, like the critical inner voice diminish our motivation and initiative whereas self-compassion and kindness increase them.
When we learn to be kinder to ourselves we also become more resilient to challenges and stress, more productive, more able to overcome bad habits and addiction and have better and more fulfilling relationships with others (1)…and it’s just a more joyful and easeful way to live : )
Here are three really simple ways you can start to be kinder to yourself today:
1. Soften The Voice Of The Inner Critic
The way that we often speak inside our own heads can have a harsh or cold tone to it, especially if something has gone wrong or we made a mistake. Start practicing self talk that sounds warm, friendly and kind. Let your inner voice take on the tone of a supportive friend or coach.
If you catch yourself sounding harsh, see if you can take a pause and change the tone back to warm and kind. Say kind and encouraging things to yourself like, “Good on you for giving that a go honey”, “That was a very kind/honest/good thing you did mate”, “Hey, it’s all ok”. If you don’t find terms of endearment like ‘honey’ or ‘mate’ useful then of course just drop them.
When you’re having a hard time, try using the kind of tone of voice that you would use to speak to a loved one who is hurting. Say soothing words to yourself. Things like, “It’s ok, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. You’re human”, “Take it easy darling”, “Oh this is a tricky moment. May I be kind to myself in this tough time”.
2. Do Things That Nourish You (Can You Do At Least One Today?)
What are the things that nourish you in your life? Nourishing things are the things that recharge the batteries, relax and rejuvenate you. The things that light you up, bring you joy and feed the soul. Some examples of nourishing things are yoga, surfing, going for a walk, having a cup of tea in the sun, gardening, painting or other hobbies, spending time with a pet or loved one, meditation, reading a book, or simply taking a break to cloud watch or take a nap.
So often we get caught up in the headlong rush of daily life and we don’t make time to just enjoy ourselves and restore our energy. What can you do today, this week, this month to nourish yourself?
It could be as simple as taking a 15 minute break to have a cup of tea today, going for a walk in the park or carving out some time each week for that hobby you love.
The invitation here is instead of always pushing yourself, can you make time to care for yourself and enjoy yourself? Yes, you deserve it.
3. Take a Self-Compassion Break
We all have moments of pain and distress. When the demands of our lives stretch us to our limits, when we feel grief, heartbreak or we are overcome with anxiety, depression or hopelessness – and we struggle or fight against ourselves and our feelings, it’s like drowning in quicksand. We only add more suffering to an already difficult moment.
This is when we need kindness towards ourselves the most. Here’s the kinder way through. It’s called a self-compassion break and it can be done in four simple steps that can take under a minute once you’re familiar with it.
When you have a situation in your life that is challenging, painful or causing you distress, take a pause for a moment. Tune into your body and see if you can locate, and feel into, where you feel the physical sensations of the emotion in your body.
STEP 1) Is to bring mindful acceptance to what is happening. By doing this we can begin to let go of hardening against, and struggling with, what is happening.
So step one is to say to yourself either out loud or mentally:
“This is a moment of suffering”
STEP 2) Is about realising our common humanity and normalising the experience of having difficult feelings (we all do sometimes). There is no need for us to feel so alone in our experience or feel guilty or ashamed of what is a normal part of being human.
In this step say to yourself either out loud or mentally:
“Suffering is a part of life. I am not alone in this”
STEP 3) Is about offering yourself compassion and soothing. This is a difficult moment so here we bring kindness into the midst of our pain.
First, place your hands over your heart as a gesture of self-compassion, or if there is another gesture that feels right for you, do that instead.
Then saying to yourself the third phrase:
“May I be kind to myself”
STEP 4) This is an optional extra step. Here you can also ask yourself, “What do I need right now to express kindness to myself?” Are there words that you could speak to yourself like “May I accept myself just as I am” or “may I be patient” or “may I slow down a little and breathe”.
Or is there anything you could do in your particular situation that could nourish you and comfort you? An action step such as such as:
Taking a warm bath, going for a walk in nature, meditating, calling a friend for support etc
Through cultivating this kind of mindful self-compassion we can find connection, softness and soothing when we’re hurting. We bring kindness to ourselves when we need it the most.
If you’d like to try a guided meditation of the self-compassion break press play on the audio below.
What do you do to cultivate a kinder relationship with yourself? I’d love you to share your wisdom with us in the comments section below : )