The importance of being kinder to yourself
Those close to us all have various expectations of who we should be. When you add to this the constant stream of advertising, marketing and ongoing societal pressures telling us we should be a certain shape, that we should wear certain clothes or look a certain way in order to perform and achieve, it can seem impossible to be kind to yourself in a world which is so demanding. The powerful and often unconscious message through advertising and marketing, is that if we don’t meet these expectations then we will be unworthy of love, attention or care. Given all of these pressures and difficulties, it can seem increasingly more difficult to feel we are good enough and to find time to be kind to ourselves.
However, despite these conditions, it is often not society or the people in our lives who criticize us or make us feel awful about ourselves. We manage to do a very good job of that ourselves. Our own internal dialogue often communicates to us in negative tones, suggesting we should have done more, worked harder or that we are always doing things wrong.
Self-acceptance and self-love
Self-love is a crucial aspect of having good mental health and can help us stop negative thought cycles. It is not something which occurs overnight and takes effort and time. This process often begins with having self-acceptance, which arises when we can stop rejecting ourselves, especially on the level of feelings we have about ourselves. Practising self-acceptance of your feelings, as they are now in the present, allows us to notice real changes in our consciousness. This in turn leads to less need for people or possessions in our external world in order to find fulfilment, happiness or security. Ultimately self-acceptance and self-love provide us with fulfilment, because we are simply accepting ourselves, our feelings and emotions.
Seven tips on how to be kinder to yourself:
Work toward overcoming negative beliefs
Often the beliefs you hold about yourself originate externally from other people from whom we seek value, love or acceptance. Of course we are impacted by the opinions, feelings and ideas of others. However it is important to distinguish which are helpful or hurtful and that in fact, we have the choice to speak to ourselves kindly and challenge these negative beliefs.
Some of us often have trouble accepting any less than perfect from our ourselves and others. In these moments it can help stop your current line of thinking. Focus on the effort required to work towards a goal, instead needing a perfect outcome and then steadily apply the required effort.
Discard your negative filter
When we focus more on the negatives in our lives, it can make these things seem disproportionately important. If you find yourself thinking that you only experience negative things, take your mind away and recount evidence to the contrary, it is very unlikely that everything is negative.
Refrain from calling yourself names
When you call yourself names, you are reducing your whole self as a human to a single element of yourself which you do not like. Telling yourself, ‘I’m such a failure’ after not getting a job is inaccurate and unfair, instead think, ‘I was unsuccessful in getting this job, but I have the chance to get another job, which may be better for me than this one’.
Rewrite your internal script
When you realise you are thinking excessively negatively, acknowledge the feeling and identify the source of that negativity. Consciously make a new statement for yourself which is more positive, self-caring, understanding and less punitive and destructive.
Do not assume the worst will happen
It can be very easy to find ourselves imagining that the very worst outcome will happen in every situation. However working toward changing your inner voice to being more realistic or truthful, instead of catasrophising and assuming the worst can help you avoid the generalisation of exaggeration which is often associated with assuming the worst.
Recognise small victories
At points when we find ourselves being especially negative about ourselves or our achievements, it can be very helpful to remember our small victories or accomplishments. This will help us to continue going, even when we feel as if we can’t. Taking time each day to notice three things we have done or feel pleased about can help us to notice we actually have made improvements, and that each step forward matters and is something to be proud of.
Benefits of being kinder to yourself
- Improves our self-confidence, self-esteem and self-belief.
- Gives us time to appreciate our achievements.
- Improves our relationships.
- Makes us more assured of who we are and what we want.
- Allows you to hear truth as opposed to what we tell ourselves is reality.
- Allows us to take a rest when we need to.
- Allows us see that making mistakes is part of being human.
- Gives us space to reflect on what we can improve.
- Makes us aware of the things which are out of our control.
How therapy can help
Seeing a therapist can give you the safe and confidential space you need to begin unpacking your internal negative voice. A counsellor will offer you the chance to explore why you are so hard on yourself and work with you to identify the roots of your self criticism and help learn to manage when you find yourself feeling negative, low or highly critical.
It can be difficult to think positively when we are so used to being self-critical and hard on ourselves. Knowing how to begin responding to ourselves positively or giving ourselves a break can seem impossible. However just by taking small steps, we can begin to make real conscious changes and begin to value ourselves, give ourselves a break and more importantly, remember that we are all human. No one is perfect and that is perfectly ok.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Joshua Miles
Joshua's an experienced integrative therapist who's worked with people to understand their negative internal dialogues, & has assisted them in understanding themselves at a much deeper level. He's worked with people to explore the roots of their negative processes & assisted them in having more clarity in life. He's based in Shoreditch, East London