3 Ways We’re Mean to Ourselves & 4 Ways to be Kinder

3 Ways I Am Mean:

  1. I judge myself harshly. The judgment in me says, “It’s vacation, but I should still be getting up at 4:30 a.m. to really get things done and make the most of my time off.  Scrolled on social media for 45 minutes?  I am such horrible time waster!  Ate too many Oreos after dinner?  Honestly, what is wrong with you?  Oh, you got one of your tasks done?  That’s pretty good, but in the process you discovered ten more things you should be doing and a class you need to take.  Right away.”  That’s my inner judge.  Nothing slides by that Mean Girl.  She is all over me about everything. 
  2. I am critical.  This is similar to judgmental voice, but a little more honed—the critic can quickly find and note what’s wrong with everything that I may have thought was right. 

Example: 

Me—I    cleaned the house! 

Critic—Yes, but you still need to wipe down the baseboards. 

Another example: 

Me—I didn’t get everything done I would have like to, but I made a good start. 

Critic—You should have done more.  Maybe if you had started the week more organized…

  • I perfectionist myself to death.  What does this look like?  I may feel a sense of accomplishment because I wrote a lot of pages for my current project.  My perfectionist tendency wants to point out that they may not be all that great (in fact, they are probably not), and do I really need to be working on a writing project anyway?  Maybe I should just set that aside for a while. 

Maybe these are all the same kind of meanness—having an inner voice, attitude and thought pattern that passes judgement, provides constant criticism and is quick to point out all of the flaws in any accomplishment, situation, or idea. 

So many times the conversation about self-care revolves around what happens outside of ourselves—our routines, our health, time for friends and family and hobbies. Let’s get more basic, more fundamental.  What about the self-care practice of treating ourselves (in our thinking and inner monologue) with compassion, gentleness, encouragement and gratitude? 

4 Ways to Be Kinder:

  1. Compassion:  We need to recognize that we are not robots created to be little machines of productivity.  We are people.  Sometimes we hurt or have a difficult moment, or afternoon, or day or week, and that is okay.  Do you kick your friends when they are down and point out all of the ways they have failed or messed up?  Most likely not, and yet, there are usually no holds barred when it comes to treating ourselves that way.  Write down what you would do or say for a friend or family member that was feeling like she had messed up?  I would probably tell her to focus on all of the thing she had done right and to take with her what she’d learned from the experience and to move on. 
  2. Gentleness.   I remember a quote from a Julia Cameron book I read once (Cameron is the author of The Artist’s Way):  “Treating myself like a precious object makes you strong.”  Many of us act as if we believe treating ourselves really harshly will make us strong.  If that hasn’t worked so far, how about trying this other way?  How can you show yourself extreme kindness in your daily life? 
  3. Encouragement and Gratitude.  Encourage yourself by noting what you have done—not what you haven’t done.  Keep gratitude journals or think thankful thoughts.  Be thankful for every bit of progress.  Every step forward.  When I toddler is learning to walk, and takes her first step, do you say, “Well, that was just one step!  Come back and get me when you can walk across the room.”  Of course, not!  We get wildly excited about that first step, even if she immediately falls down.  The step is celebrated. 
  4. On that note, take time to celebrate your B- work.  There is a commonly held belief that is a best practice to put our B- work into the world. If we wait until everything we make is an A, (as our perfectionist would like), we will never put anything out there.   Let’s not just put our B- work out there for the world to see, let’s celebrate it.  Celebrate each step and each accomplishment and milestone.  Don’t wait until you finish the book or remodeling project or green house or choreography to celebrate.  Celebrate each time you work on it and make a little progress. 

In Short:  Have compassion.  Be gentle with yourself.  Encourage yourself and be grateful.  Notice everything that is right.  Celebrate your progress.

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