Last week we started the conversation about self-kindness or self-compassion and challenged you to a few concrete self-kindness activities you could try for a week. In this week’s post, we’d like to address how you might more broadly and in a life-style change sort of way, live a life of self-kindness. Specifically, we’d like to help you continually monitor your self-critic and pay kind attention to yourself.
Monitoring your self-critic
How would you respond if you heard a friend saying critical things about themselves? You’d probably jump in to support them and show then kindness, even if they are not perfect. We’d like you to talk to yourself like you would that dear friend.
It’s easy to be kind to ourselves when we think we deserve it, but past and current experiences and emotional mood states can make it difficult for us to accept kindness from ourselves. Despite that you may not always believe it, you deserve to be treated with patience, love, tenderness, compassion, and grace. Self-kindness is an important “practice.” It may not come naturally to all of us so we actually have to practice being kind to ourselves. This involves generating feelings of caring and kindness towards yourself, instead of being critical and judgmental. Speak and treat yourself in a nurturing way. Have the courage to be imperfect and believe that you are enough just as you are. Validate and embrace the vulnerability that may emerge from this.
Self-kindness exercises to nurture your inner voice
- Practice kindness with yourself:
Say three nice things to yourself, about yourself, each day.
Example: I’m a good friend/spouse. I have a good sense of humor. I have these strengths and abilities: (list strengths and abilities). I’m perfectly imperfect.
- Tell yourself “I love you”:
Put your hand on your heart and take a breath and say “Good morning (state your name).”
Do this for 1-2 weeks.
Placing your hand on your heart as you do this also releases oxytocin (a “love hormone”) which is good for you.
Put your hand on your heart and say, “Good morning, I love you (state your name).”
Allow yourself to receive this kind attention and self-love.
We may not always believe it each day, but give it to yourself anyway.
- Kind attention:
Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention with kindness. Notice when you are becoming self-critical and/or judgmental and pay kind attention to your responses and compassionately respond to yourself again.
Negative/critical attention: I always mess things up.
Kind attention: I made a mistake, mistakes happen. I can learn from this.
Cultivate kind attention to what may seem like an unforgiveable part of yourself. You are so much more than your past actions. You can change and choose differently now.
- Check your perfectionistic talk:
Perfectionism is a thought pattern with unrealistically high standards. Do you judge yourself in a harsher manner than others would judge you?
Notice when you “should” yourself. (Ex. I should have done “X.” I should have known “Y.”) Change “should” to “could.” (Ex. I could have done “X.”) It turns regrets about the past into a strategy for the future.
- Ask yourself “what do I need now?” and give it to yourself:
Every “now” is a different “now” so you will answer this question differently each time.
Notice if you need:
Cool/warm shower or bath
Activity with rest breaks (pace yourself)
Space and time to yourself
A friend to talk to
Some of these may feel awkward when you first start the exercises, but the longer you do them intentionally, the more often you will be able to act with self-kindness in time of challenge or stress. “Self-compassion is nurturing yourself with all the kindness and love you would shower on someone you cherish.” (Debra Reble, PhD). We cherish our loved ones even with all of their mistakes and imperfections. Let’s cherish ourselves as much as we do those loved ones!