Soften Up on Yourself

Most of us are so hard on ourselves! Harsh, angry, self-condemning thoughts pop into our heads at the slightest provocation, and we often push ourselves so ruthlessly. And when we hear about practicing more compassion for ourselves, we can sometimes turn that lovely concept into yet another occasion for self-bashing: ďOh, here I go, being hard on myself again! I really messed up!Ē

Here is a wise antidote to being so darned hard on ourselves. We intend to take it to heart. We hope you will, too!

Every part of us deserves gentle self-acceptance and compassion, especially the parts of us that we think need and deserve it least! Think of it this way: We would never talk to a friend the way we often talk to ourselves–we would be much more understanding and forgiving.

It can be helpful to imagine what we would say to a friend in a given situation, and then saying it to ourselves.

And here is a simple exercise to practice:

When you catch yourself being hard on yourself, do something different: Be gentle to yourself. Take a long, slow breath and relax your body. Relax your arms, shoulders, and chest. Then relax your face, soften your eyes. Realize that if youíre attacking yourself this hard, it canít be the real truth. If you are feeling regretful for some past action, remember that part of you must have had a very good reason for acting as you did. Imagine how you would respond to a friend who had done something similar. Notice any new feelings (possibly sadness) that come up when you are gentle to yourself. Write them down, if you wish.

Inspired by I Know Iím in There Somewhere, by Helene G. Brenner (Gotham Books, 2003).

21 comments

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info and reminders!

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info and reminders!

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info and reminders!

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info and reminders!

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info and reminders!

Gwynethrose F.
Gwynethrose F.3 years ago

I am my mom's primary caregiver now, and I am my very own worst critic. I constantly have the self dialogue of not good enough, too heavy, etc...but this article helped me to realize that it's not doing me any good.

Penny C.
Penny C.3 years ago

Great.

Chad A.
Chad Anderson4 years ago

I have been struggling with this for a long time and I try very hard to make it easy on others and encourage them to be easy on themselves (I am a teacher, so I hope this helps!).

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Thanks for this article.

Janine Hofmann
Janine H.4 years ago

Thank you very much for this article. It is very interesting.

To myself i am hard, too. It is easier to say something good about an other person, but about me...
Maybe it has something to do how people grow up, who is around (parents, grandparents,... teachers and other) if these people had/have critics, and how much critics, how do they say them...