How Being Mean to Yourself is Holding You Back

I am really good at self-deprecation. In fact, you probably are, too. It’s an unfortunate skill many of us possess. I have the ability to put myself down in such imaginatively cruel and twisted ways that, if verbalized, would shock my loved ones. But, until recently, I never realized the extent to which my meanness was holding me back.

With my training as a professional dancer, self-deprecation has been cultivated within me from an early age—my foot is such a biscuit, you look lazy, ugh my flabby stomach is hanging out, why did I eat that burrito before ballet, such a pig! I have long focused on my flaws and the places where I was not enough. And I masochistically relished in being able to dig in where it really hurt. I thought this perfectionism and harshness was serving to improve me, but it actually held me back for years. Romantic relationships, my love for dance, my ability to start my own projects—all were stunted by my habit of self-deprecation. I was depressed, broke and complacent, my self-worth was raw and scarred, and showing myself to the world became internal torture.

With some external encouragement and some major life shifts, I started to keep track of how often these limiting thoughts were popping into my mind. No judgement, just acknowledgement. Some days there would be pearl-like strings of nasties when I really got the gears going. Other days, maybe only an ugh, I look dreadful. But the fact remains that I was practicing negative self-talk every single day… which explains how I got so good at it.

The reason so many of us struggle with self-love is that we are incredibly well-practiced at being mean to ourselves.        

Focusing on the good things about myself has changed my life in incredible ways: I started a business that has accumulated a lot of positive momentum. I am a better, more stable romantic partner. I have been able to travel more. I am able to take regular ballet classes without initiating a breakdown. Being nicer to myself and celebrating the beautiful parts of me on a daily basis has made me so much happier and healthier.

It takes effort, but with time, patience and practice, self-kindness and self-love can become your M.O., too. Here are some basics ways that being nicer to yourself will improve your life:

Reduce stress and anxiety

Most of our stress and anxiety is self-inflicted. We magnify our flaws and problems into monstrous creatures in our minds and they wreck havoc. There have been many times when I have allowed my internal dialogue to suck me into a hyperventilating panic attack. I was never in a situation to warrant an anxiety attack, yet the relentless, self-inflicted battering of the psyche eventually becomes too overwhelming for the body to handle.

At times like these, it is worthwhile to journal 3 wonderful things about yourself. Yes, it will seem impossibly hard in the moment, and maybe you can’t think of  anything with real depth, but think of this journaling practice as a helicopter rescue team coming to drag you out of a vicious maelstrom. It is a real savior, just make sure you are trying to get out of the maelstrom by putting a stopper on your negative internal dialogue. If you keep a positivity journal regularly, these are the times to flip through the pages and remind yourself of how wonderful you are.

Feel more energized

Negative energy is heavy. You can feel it, weighing down your limbs, weighing down your heart. Inject your habitual thoughts with a fresh, positive perspective. It becomes easier to wake up in the morning, easier to start new endeavors, easier to hang out with friends and do fun things. Practice self-directed positivity and love and you will notice a lightness gradually growing within you instead.

Feel more successful

When you focus on pointing out the nice things in yourself, it can shine a light on the small wins that often get undervalued. Over time, focusing on these small wins can give you the energy to keep working towards a big win, which is otherwise know as success.

For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and you wake up one morning feeling ugly and bloated and fat, it can be easy to forget about the 10 pounds you’ve already lost. In the moment, you may be so full of self-loathing and hatred that you want ditch your goals and surround yourself with comfort food and sweatpants for eternity.

But if you persevere, cut yourself some mental slack, and give yourself love and credit for those 10 pounds—you will probably continue successfully down your weight loss path, despite the hiccups. It’s important to acknowledge the progress you’ve made, the small wins, in order to give yourself the courage to push through towards even greater success.

Be happier

When you’re nicer to yourself, you’re happier. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Show yourself some love.

Try to get in the habit of talking to yourself as you would your best friend. Sure, you’d give them a blunt kick in the rear if they needed it, but you would never call them lazy, hideous, pathetic, a slug, useless, worthless, ugly or anything along those lines. Speak to yourself with that same level of value and respect.

I’m not perfect. I still have days when I mentally start wailing on myself with a spiked club. But with a powerful positivity practice to counteract it, I am able to show myself more compassion than ever before. And that is a wonderful feeling.

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Jessica K
Jessica K3 days ago

Finding something relaxing yet challenging to do is something that also works for me, like a new hobby or new focus in an old one. Thanks.

Janine F
Janine F3 days ago


Paola S
Paola S10 days ago

thank you

Jaime J
Jaime J11 days ago

Thank you!!

Debbie F
Debbie F11 days ago

Thanks! Not always easy to be kind to yourself.

Janis K
Janis K11 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Daniel N
Daniel N12 days ago

Thanks for shoring

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer14 days ago

Interesting. Thanks.

Richard A
Richard A15 days ago

Thank you for this interesting and helpful article.

Maria Papastamatiou

Thanks for posting. I used to underrate myself but lately have changed. It is one thing to be arrogant, another thing to acknowledge your good qualities. After all, if you should love your neighbor as yourself, you should love yourself to start with...