Do you even remember the last negative thing you said to yourself today?
I bet it happened within the last couple of hours. You might have not even noticed. We seem to have an easier time saying negative things to ourselves than anyone else in our lives. The list might include:
- I'm no good at this, I don't even know why I try.
- I hate myself for not following through on that deadline.
- I suck.
- I'm not ________ enough. (pretty, smart, charming, thin, healthy...)
- I'm never going to be able to accomplish this goal.
That's our inner critic saying a lot of negative self-talk.
Some days are our inner critic is louder than others. And recognizing it is crucial for moving forward. Clinicians and counselors are amazing at helping us work on changing our negative self-talk through cognitive behavioral therapy. And of course, the idea of positive thinking is everywhere. Almost a little too much sometimes - Melody Wilding writes about why positive thinking doesn't work and what actually does work.
So how can we also be kind to ourselves?
If I could talk to my 20-year-old self, I'd say be kinder to yourself. And I'm pretty sure my future 40-year-old self would tell me to do the same thing. We all know yelling doesn't work. The inner critic isn't helping us either. Kindness allows us the chance to breathe and relax. Kindness helps us channel a better space to get things done. Kindness helps us see new perspectives and get creative.
First, ask yourself what you would tell your best friend.
Would you tell your best friend she should just give up or yell at her to get more things done? No? So why do you tell yourself those things? It's a classic idea, but an important reminder. Only say the things to yourself that you would say to a friend or loved one. We all know kindness goes a long way when we're making and building friendships. Use the same techniques on yourself. You know the phrases and statements you like to hear. Make a list and put it where you can see it.
Second, give yourself space to make mistakes and stumble.
When we're on the productivity bandwagon and all energized about getting stuff done, we can get a little carried away and try to cram too much into too little space. I do it myself sometimes. I'll say, "That's the day I'm going to get X, Y, and Z done - definitely!" And then the day rolls around and I don't get it done. Because some days are low energy and some days I need time to rest and recharge.
Building these moments and days into my calendar is just as important as the items on my to-do list. Otherwise, I'll spend the rest of the week "beating myself up" for not getting things done. Instead, I remember to be kind to myself. "Wow, I've really had a lot going on, no wonder I needed more rest on Sunday." It often takes more time and space than we imagine in our heads when we first plan it.
Third, say no to something on your list.
Sometimes being kinder means recognizing that you aren't superhuman. We aren't little energizer bunnies all the time. And sometimes you need more rest and time to recharge than other times of the year. I know one of my statements right now is, "It's still winter, a time of hibernation and staying well rested so I don't get sick. Be kind to yourself." And that means taking some things off my plate that I might be able to accomplish at other times of the year. February is not my month for tackling big, new projects. I know this about myself.
So what's on your list that you can step back from? Say no or take a break from? Can any of it start today? Tomorrow? Next week?
So what resonates with you? What are other ways to be kind to yourself?
Share below in the comments so we can all learn from each other!