I used to be very hard on myself. I took the tough-love approach to my self-improvement and I thought that the meaner I was to myself the more it would motivate me to change. Call yourself fat and disgusting enough time and you’ll lose those pounds. Tell yourself how stupid you are and you’ll stop making mistakes. Shocker, it didn’t work. After awhile, it was so common for me to be mean to myself that I stopped noticing I was doing it. Until I’d fall into depression and then I’d notice, and believe those things.
Self-love helped me see that being a judgmental asshole to myself accomplished absolutely nothing.
It took a long time to get out of that habit. I’m talking years. I was committed to changing but no matter how hard I tried the moment I got frustrated at myself I was right back to calling myself stupid or unlovable or untalented. It took deep inner work to realize that in my head it was easier to place the blame on myself when things went wrong. That way I didn’t have to confront the actual issues in my life. It wasn’t that I was in bad relationships because I had little self-worth. I was just stupid and you can’t fix stupid. That mentality is a cop-out that stops you from seeing the real work that needs to be done.
Eventually, I realized that my bad choices needed compassion so that I could see things from a real perspective and understand why I was doing them. I had anger issues not because I was a bitch, but because I couldn’t process being hurt and I gained weight because I ate my emotions and didn’t have any coping skills not because I was lazy. I was depressed because sometimes the brain just doesn’t work right, not because I’m permanently broken. Having a bit of compassion for myself changed my whole outlook on my life.
When we feel compassion for others, we feel kindness toward them, empathy, and a desire to help reduce their suffering.
It’s the same when you are compassionate toward yourself. Self-compassion creates a caring space within you that is free of judgment—a place that sees your hurt and your failures and softens to allow those experiences with kindness and caring.
And yet, with all of the wonderful things that come along with being kind to ourselves, we find it hard to actually feel it.
Why? Why are we so lacking in self-compassion?
Here are some things that helped:
Be careful what you tell yourself.
Stop automatically berating yourself whenever something goes wrong. Be mindful of everything you tell yourself. In the beginning, you will screw up a lot and that’s okay. Whenever something negative and mean goes through your head back it up with the truth. The truth that you made a mistake, you are human, you were having a bad day, life’s not easy, you learned something, you are capable and brave, and wonderful and whatever bad thing you did or felt or said doesn’t define you.
Open up to your friends and mentors and listen to what they tell you. Their point of view probably isn’t going to come from a place of condemnation and that’s exactly what you need, a point of view that comes from love and compassion. You can then take those words in and allow them to help you foster compassion for yourself.
Own your mistakes.
When you take away that automatic tendency to berate yourself you then allow yourself to start seeing the truth of your mistakes and why you make them. Own that. Own your issues and your tendencies to self-sabotage and then start working at the root of those issues. That’s the only way to cure what ails you, you can’t treat the symptoms and ignore what’s causing them. Love yourself enough to stop the behaviors that are hurting you mentally and emotionally.
Think about how you’d treat someone you love.
And then treat yourself in that exact way because you’re supposed to be someone you love too. Say the things to yourself that you would say to someone else. Offer the same suggestions. Focus on making yourself feel better about whatever is going on.
Self-soothing. When you are having upset and anxious moments, you need to know how to calm yourself down. You’d be surprised at how many people just don’t know how to do this in a constructive way. They get overwhelmed with negative emotions and they turn to destructive ways to cope, like lashing out, drugs and alcohol, or deep depression. Discover how to self-soothe. When you are getting overwhelmed the easiest way to figure out which way to self-soothe is best for you is to go through the five senses.
Come up with your own ways to comfort and soothe yourself when you’re in need of it and then do those things. That is what self-care is all about. It’s okay to pamper yourself and it’s okay to wallow in a bit of self-pity as long as you allow yourself to climb out of it. Feeling your feelings is okay so if you’re sad – allow yourself to be sad.
Let go of the past, let go of your bad deeds, let go of your shame, let go of those things that you think about in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. If you’ve done something bad, then live your life in a good way, in a positive way. Putting that out into the world does more good than hating yourself ever could. Forgiving yourself (at least for me) is ridiculously hard. There’s all those should haves and could haves and we wish we had done better, known better, listened and acted better. It’s so easy to place the blame on ourselves and internalize everything. The work to find forgiveness, to get through those feelings, is worth it. The energy to let it go is worth it.