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Mental Health

‘Help! I’m Too Hard on Myself’ — Experts Teach Tricks for Self Compassion


It’s easy to encourage your friends, daughters, and loved ones to practice self compassion. But what about compassion for yourself? That part may be much harder.

Research shows that women have much lower self esteem than men worldwide, even though self esteem tends to increase with age. Here, discover easy ways to mute your inner critic and treat yourself with more compassion.

Listen to signals.

When that voice in your head sows seeds of doubt, your first instinct is to push it aside — but listening to it will help you free yourself, says Bonnie Weiss, psychotherapist, coach, and author.

“Ask yourself, ‘What’s this really about?’” she suggests. “People often find they got a message in childhood that they weren’t good enough, and their negative self-talk is a part of them that hasn’t healed. Looking a little deeper lets you shift from your inner critic to your inner champion.”

Identify your critic type.

There are three main kinds of internal naysayers: the perfectionist, the taskmaster, and the underminer. Knowing which “bullhorn” your inner bully prefers will help you muzzle it, says Weiss. “If the perfectionist tells you that you could be doing better, say, ‘It’s good enough for now.’”

While perfectionism can lead to procrastination, for fear of not being good enough, the taskmaster is all go-go-go: “It never lets you rest. To quiet this voice, just repeat: ‘It’s enough. Life’s about balance.’”

The most toxic of all “critics” is the underminer, because it tells you that you can’t succeed. “Remind this voice: ‘It’s okay to dream big — if I stumble, I’ll learn from it,’” she says. Simply using the right response can help silence negativity.

Take a pause.

Rather than berate the voice that berates you, channel the voice that celebrates you, encourages Susan MacKenty Brady, relationship expert, leadership wellbeing coach, author, and speaker.

“When harsh words start to play in your mind, take a deep breath and pause to help ground yourself,” she advises. “Simply relax and picture the bighearted, empowering part of you standing independently from your inner critic, reminding you just how much you’ve accomplished and overcome throughout your life.”

Boost resilience by finding peace.

We all stumble at times, and the trick to ensuring we get back up is telling ourselves two words: “It’s understandable,” says expert Beverly Engel, psychotherapist and author. (Better yet, it’s an easy way to practice self compassion.)

“Just say, ‘It’s understandable that I get really nervous when I get a new assignment at work,’ or, ‘It’s understandable that I have trouble dealing with negative people.’ This empathy is the biggest missing puzzle piece when we’re down on ourselves after a setback, and whispering it to ourselves gives us hope that we can grow and succeed.”

Lean on your support group.

The more we surround ourselves with a chorus of support, the fainter the voice of our inner critic becomes, says MacKenty Brady.

“I’m anti-‘superwoman’ — the unfair expectation that we can do it all ourselves,” she says. “Instead, call on your team of friends, and let them listen to your doubts, just as you listen to theirs. When we lean on others, we borrow their confidence, until we can be confident in our ourselves.”

Keep shining your light.

One of the most helpful questions to ask yourself is: What makes my best self thrive? “Some of it will be deep, like having meaningful conversations, and some of it will be fun, like getting your nails done,” says MacKenty Brady. “Self-care is a conscious intention from moment to moment. You can’t shine your light if you’re casting your own shadow on it, so be sure to let yourself shine.”

Looking for more tips? Check out these simple ways to show yourself self love, and six ways to stop people pleasing.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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