Being Kind to Yourself

kindness mental health self-development self-love Oct 22, 2021

It can be hard to be kind to ourselves, especially in times where we fail. It's not that we are intentionally punishing ourselves, but it can be difficult to see how hard we are on ourselves in the moment. We have heard the topics of self-love, self-compassion, and so on, but it can still be difficult to take these to heart. It takes practice to make that change in behavior to be consistently kinder to ourselves. 

The base for how we treat and view ourselves stems from how we grew up. How our failures and mistakes were viewed by the family and community around us definitely shapes how we respond to our mistakes, but there is more to it. Children are highly perceptive and can pick up how others view their own mistakes and failures. If you grew up in a home with a lot of negative, self-critical talk, that type of thinking and response becomes "normal" behavior. One that ultimately, we need to unlearn.

When we criticize ourselves, research shows that what is actually happening is our flight or fight response being triggered. When we fail or experience a difficult/high-stress task, we can essentially feel threatened by our own self and thus end up criticizing and being harder on ourselves. This can also explain why we don't have the same reaction when a friend or loved one fails with the same task, because we don't have that internal threat or fear. 

Though it may not seem like it, it is extremely important to be kind to ourselves. When we are kind to ourselves, we can experience greater levels of life satisfaction, connection to others, and happiness. Showing ourselves compassion can also help to decrease our fear of failure, anxiety, and depression. 

So how can we be more kind to ourselves? One of the first things to do is take an internal inventory. Separate yourself from the issue and take that 3rd party look. If this were happening to a friend, would you still respond the same way? Taking yourself out of the scenario is a good way to see if you are being harder on yourself. If you're reacting more to the situation than what is appropriate, then ask yourself what it is that your needing? As easy as it seems, this can be a pretty difficult question. When we are in the middle of self-doubt or self-criticism, it can be hard to see what it is that we need. Do we need to be more understanding of the situation? Do we need to be more compassionate to ourselves in the face of failure? Figuring out what you need at that moment can help you find the right direction in responding to the situation. 

A big part of being kind to yourself is showing yourself love and understanding. It is keeping your internal monologue compassionate to yourself, even in difficult moments. There are other things that you can do to be kind to yourself, such as:

Forgiving Yourself: At some point, we have all made mistakes. Whether we made poor decisions in the past or we missed out on a great opportunity, it is important to acknowledge the mistake and then forgive yourself. No one is perfect, and sometimes these things happen. 

Treating Yourself: It is okay to give yourself a treat every so often. This could be a yummy treat from your favorite coffee place, an afternoon lounging at a beach, or even 30 minutes of a bubble bath and wine. Treating yourself can be more than a spontaneous purchase. It can be as simple as giving yourself the space and time you need to decompress and relax. 

Lift Yourself Up: You will always be your greatest ally. Even when it's difficult, it is important to try and not tear yourself down. When you fail or make a mistake, let yourself know it will be okay. Remind yourself of your past successes and personal victories. Then game plan on how to overcome this issue, whether it is apologizing and making amends or trying to accomplish a task again. 

Accepting Yourself: Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. There will be people who succeed where you fail, and you will succeed where others have failed. It is okay not to be perfect or the best and not to succeed every time. It is important to accept yourself as you are. You have qualities that are unique and make you, YOU. Embrace them. 

There is no one path or one sure-fire way to be kinder to yourself. As stated earlier, everyone is different and therefore has different needs. That is why one of the first things you need to do is look internally to see what you need and how you can best help you. There may be times where the best path is to forgive yourself and give yourself a little pep talk. There will be other times that you just need to take a step back and have some time alone to decompress before you even start thinking of what to do next. Just make sure, whatever path your choosing, it is what is best for you.