Dr. David Terriff, MD
Be Kind To Yourself
You deserve it. We all do.
When was the last time you were kind to yourself?
Many of us spend a lot of time during the day being critical of ourselves. Why? Most of us have preconceived ideas that it is important to be hard on ourselves or else we won't succeed. Does this sound familiar: "If I don't do this just right then I'll never amount to anything! I'll be a failure. Other people will think I'm a failure". Setting goals for yourself is important, but beating yourself up if you don't achieve those goals isn't helpful. Imagine telling a young child the negative comments that you tell yourself. What impact might that have on the child? Does it impact you any differently?
The impact of constantly beating ourselves up is profound. Over time we actually start to believe the things we tell ourselves, but they might not be true at all. If you beat yourself up all the time then you will believe the things you tell yourself. What if none of those negative statements that you tell yourself are true? What if your view of yourself is shaped by how you treat yourself?
When we have a negative self worth then there are a number of psychological processes going on that maintain that stance. The first is that we repeatedly treat ourselves poorly. The second is called confirmation bias. We selectively choose to interpret information that supports our pre-existing views. An example would be seeing someone laughing and thinking that they are laughing at you because you're a failure. The reality is that the person was likely laughing about something unrelated but you interpreted the information to support your view of yourself. The third psychological process that reinforces negative self worth is selective filtering of information. This happens in situations such as when you receive a compliment or you perform well at your job or do well on an exam. Many individuals will dismiss the compliment and their internal voice will say something like this: "They are just trying to be nice" or "They don't really know the real me".
Fortunately there are a number of ways to change these patterns of beating ourselves up.
A well researched practice that can help to undo the cycle of self criticism is Self Compassion.
Self Compassion includes three components:
1. Self Kindness: It involves being kind to ourselves when we are struggling and acknowledging our own suffering
2. Compassion for Others: It means acknowledging that we are all suffering and that we are all imperfect.
3. Mindfulness: It means accepting and observing our thoughts and feelings as they come without judgement and without trying to suppress or control them.
Learn more about Self Compassion from Kristin Neff, PhD:
How well do you treat yourself? Take a self assessment:
Want to learn more about how to develop your self compassion practice and shift out of the cycle of self criticism? Check out these resources:
Centre for Clinical Interventions
Centre for Mindful Self Compassion