How To Be Kinder To Yourself
Be Your Own Best Friend
Have you ever noticed that you treat others with more courtesy and kindness than you do yourself? Even when they don’t necessarily deserve it? Today is the day to turn that around. It’s time to start being your own best friend.
What Is Self Kindness?
Kristen Neff, a leading researcher of self-compassion, defines self kindness (or self compassion) as involving “acting the same way towards yourself when you’re having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself”. It requires that “instead of mercilessly judging and criticising yourself for various inadequacies and shortcomings, … you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failures”.
Why Is It So Important?
According to Harvard Health, self kindness ‘yields a number of benefits, including lower levels of anxiety and depression. Self-compassionate people recognise when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, which reduces their anxiety and related depression’.
Just as importantly, self kindness allows us to be happier and create more meaningful connections with ourselves and others. It facilitates the healing of physical and emotional wounds. A lack of self kindness limits us. Negative inner dialogue prevents us from following our passions, chasing our dreams and living life on our terms. When we listen to the negative voice in our head, we fail to see our own potential and the possibilities our potential affords us.
How To Turn Down The Volume On The Voice Inside Your Head
Wellness coach Elizabeth Scott recommends the following strategies for minimising negative self-talk:
CATCH AND CALL:
Start to recognise when you are listening to your own negative self-talk. Notice when you say negative things to yourself that you would not say to others then call it what is.
NAME YOUR INNER CRITIC:
By giving your inner critic a silly name you start to remove its power. Something like “Negative Nellie is at it again” can help you see that you don’t need to agree with these negative statements and that some of them are just plain ridiculous.
Alternatively, use a free voice changer app and record all the negative statements you notice telling yourself. Apply a silly voice to your recording (I used Elmo) and listen back to it. It is much harder to take these things seriously if you’re listening to it in a comical or silly voice. At the very least, it will give you a good laugh.
CHANGE THE INTENSITY:
When you notice the negativity, change the narrative to something that is less negative but still accurate. “I hate” can become “I don’t like” or “I can’t” can become “This is challenging”. By changing the intensity and making it gentler, you reduce the impact the negativity statement has upon you.
CHALLENGE THE THOUGHT:
The majority of self-talk goes unchallenged because we are the only one that hears it. As negative self-talk can often be prone to exaggeration, its potential for damage is high. Next time, ask yourself “Is this true?” “Is it helpful?”
THINK AND SPEAK LIKE A FRIEND
When you find thoughts about yourself wandering over to the dark side, ask yourself if this is how you would speak to a friend or expect a friend to speak to you. If the answer is ‘no’ then think about how you would communicate this thought to your friend and apply it to how you speak to yourself
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes looking at the bigger picture will shift your perspective. Instead of focusing on that negative thought, ask yourself if this will matter in 1, 2, 5 or 10 years time. More than likely the answer will be ‘no’. Notice the shift in your perspective and let the thought go.
SAY IT OUT LOUD
The act of getting the thought off your mind and out in to the open is a powerful one. I have a friend who enjoys having a laugh with me about “the voices in my head” as we call it. But whether you say out aloud on your own in a private space or share it with a trusted friend, you are removing that thought’s power and impact.
No matter which strategy you use or find helpful, the important thing is that you are taking steps to silence your inner critic. This combined with small acts of self-care when you are struggling will empower you and have you treating yourself as your own best friend. And that’s what matters.