7 Ways to Be More Kind to Yourself

Young woman drawing heart on mirror with red lipstickYou’ve heard the cliché phrase, “We all make mistakes.” You’ve been hearing it all your life. But why is it that when YOU make a mistake, no matter how big or small, you have a hard time forgiving yourself or getting over it?

Is it possible you set higher expectations for yourself than you do for others? Maybe you still carry noises in your head from earlier years, from parents or caregivers who were critical, or maybe you’re stuck on the notion that every action or choice you make is good or bad, life or death, black or white. As a result, when YOU don’t meet your own expectations, you mentally whack yourself with brutal criticism you’d never even consider whispering to someone else.

As a therapist, I hear all kinds of stories from people who think their mistakes are worse than ones made by others. The frequency of these stories tells me a lot of people are coming to therapy with feelings of failure or disappointment in themselves, but where’s the rule book that says you have to get it right every time or that you’re not allowed bungles or missteps or to make genuine, heart-achy, even embarrassing mistakes? I don’t believe such a rule exists, and neither should you.

If you’re one of the people I just described, the following tips will help you be kinder to yourself (and you—yes, you—deserve that):

  1. Staying stuck on that terrible thing you did doesn’t fix it, nor does it make you a better person; making a decision to do things differently in the future makes you a better person.
  2. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re always making some level of progress in your life. Being human demands we grow and change with the experiences and information we gather. Accept each lesson, and be grateful you’ve got another one under your cap.
  3. Remember, going easy on yourself doesn’t mean you’re letting yourself off the hook. Go ahead and have high standards, but accept that you’re going to mess up despite your standards. It’s what humans do.
  4. Ask yourself: What is the intention/purpose of that critical voice inside you? Will it help? Will it right a wrong or keep you from ever making that mistake again? If not, stop it now.
  5. What would you say to your best friend in a similar situation? Can you imagine offering the same compassion to yourself? Write it down and practice using kind messages with yourself.
  6. Try changing the self-talk that says you should feel ashamed, humiliated, or punished, to, “I am a person who is kind—even to myself.” Post this on your fridge or somewhere you will see it every day.
  7. Take a deep breath and imagine wrapping your own arms around yourself in a sweet, comforting hug.

The next time you mess up, remember these tips for softening the mean voice in your head and cut yourself some slack. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, being gentle with yourself will help you feel more grounded and confident, and that will help you be the better person you want to be.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mary Bradley, LSCSW, LCSW, therapist in Kansas City, Missouri

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Gabby

    April 19th, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    I am assuming that it is the narcissist who has a much easier time forgiving themselves, or I am guessing more like they don’t see that they have done anything wrong, and they pin the blame elsewhere?

  • Georgette

    April 19th, 2016 at 3:22 PM

    I try to look at it this way.

    The world can be a terribly unkind place. Am I going to choose to add to that anger and unhappiness or might I instead be more of the person that God wants me to be?

    He made me in His image so therefore how could i ever believe that there is something that I can do as a mere human to improve upon that greatness?

    I understand that it can be hard, getting caught up daily in the things that we see and wanting to be more like that. But in the end I think that we should all strive to be a little happier with all that we have been given rather than always trying to keep up with the things that quite possibly are never meant to be for us.

  • clardy

    April 20th, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    The thing is, if you are confident and project yourself as such, the this is how others will treat you as well. There is something to be said for having a very strong outer facade.

  • Trina

    April 21st, 2016 at 8:34 AM

    This is not anything that comes easily to all of us :(

  • Marcia

    April 22nd, 2016 at 12:55 PM

    You know what always makes me feel better?
    trying to see myself through my boyfriend’s eyes.
    he is the best about adoring me and making me feel special and when I try to see myself the may that he sees me then that always makes me feel just a little more special than I felt before.

  • Louise R.

    April 22nd, 2016 at 5:36 PM

    I have this on my bathroom mirror ! Great idea! I hope it helps me!

  • mac

    April 24th, 2016 at 2:10 PM

    The time is now! Just do it!

  • Maisy

    April 26th, 2016 at 2:23 PM

    I really do like the idea of thinking about would this be something that I would ever say to my best friend and if I wouldn’t then I shouldn’t feel like I can talk to myself that way either. It is so common to talk about ourselves in a way that we would never do to another person and yet we seem to have no problem talking so horribly to ourselves. I think that it is a good way for us to begin to see that we really do hurt ourselves a lot just with the things that we think about ourselves and that trying a little tenderness can be a good rule of thumb for any of us to observe.

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