Last night, I sat outside in the beautiful, spring weather with a wonderful group of friends. We were talking about how much we have to be grateful for – family and friends, health and work we love among other things.
Then, we noticed that despite all these blessings, we still are so hard on ourselves. We struggle to notice the good in ourselves – whether that’s the way we care for our families, how we give back to our communities and the great work we’re capable of creating.
Why do we criticize ourselves –how did we make it such a persistent habit?
At some point, we started telling ourselves the story that self-criticism works. We believe that if we are gentler with our self-talk – if we praise ourselves, for example – we will lose our edge.
Science confirms that “self-compassion” – or supporting yourself, “talking” more kindly to yourself – leads not only to feeling better, but also to performing better. People who are kind to their minds and who criticize themselves less are happier, more optimistic, less depressed – and lost more weight.
In short, kindness works.
So, let the self-criticism go. Cut yourself a break. Support yourself.
Here’s a quick way to start to re-program your thoughts or behavior. After every meeting or chat ask:
- What worked well?
- What would I do differently next time?
This quick de-brief focuses on positives – and leaves out criticism.
As you focus on what you would do differently versus criticizing yourself – you develop a new skill.
You start looking for the good. And, when you practice this regularly, at work and home, you become a kinder, more positive and productive person.
Why? Because what you focus on, you create more of. Focusing on the good, alerts your brain to look for more good. The habit of seeing what is going well alerts you to look for more. As you look for more, it will show up.
And, you will find that the kinder you are to yourself, the more the voice in your head softens. Your relationships at home and work will improve. You start to feel better.
The first step though is kindness for yourself. It’s the building block in the foundation that will support your future success.
That’s easier said than done. So, here’s a smart and strategic way to start:
Shift into the coach role. Successful coaches can recognize another’s progress or potential and offer the appropriate support to encourage, push or persuade another. Start thinking of yourself as a coach – for you. Would you let another coach deliver that kind of criticism to you? No? Well, then why do you accept it from yourself?
Start to change how you talk to yourself when things don’t go perfectly. Next time something doesn’t go the way you wanted or planned, think about the first couple of things – most likely criticisms – that come to mind. Acknowledge them. Then, put them in their rightful place, and think different thoughts:
“That’s okay, I did my best.”
“It’s all working out – I am learning every day.”
“I am doing the best I can with the knowledge and understanding I have.”
The problem is we let those criticisms come in the front door and settle in for the summer – if not longer. Instead, answer the door, acknowledge them, and then don’t let them get any further in; but, kindly welcome other thoughts in.
Let it go. Whatever you are berating yourself about – let it go. Truth be told, only you know what it is. And whatever it is, let it go. Let it go.
Give yourself some credit. When you get to the end of the day, think about what you have accomplished that day – what did you make happen, produce, deliver, start, finish. Then, say to yourself:
“You handled that conversation well.”
“Good job, well done, keep, going!”
Yes, this sounds odd, but science tells us that positive self-talk works.
When you support and encourage yourself, when you speak positively to yourself, you feel better.
And, when you feel better life is easier – you have more fun, you get more work done, and you’re able to produce work that you’re proud of and feel success in a whole new way.
So, what can you do right here, right now to be kind to yourself?