How Can I be Nicer to Myself?

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In the quest to live a meaningful life amongst the many stressors of our everyday lives, it is easy to be hard on ourselves. Self-talk is how we talk to ourselves in our minds/thoughts, and negative self-talk can lead to anxiety, depression, shame, low motivation, feelings of sadness, and more. It may be tempting to think that being hard on ourselves will motivate us to achieve greater things, but that is not generally the case.

Kristin Neff, who has done extensive research on the topic, explores how self-compassion can be a helpful way to support your well-being and increase life satisfaction.

What is self-compassion?

Neff states that self-compassion is similar to the understanding and kindness that people have for other people, but turned inward toward yourself. It is being gentle and supportive with yourself when you make a mistake or difficult events happen. Self compassion is understanding that you are human and appreciating our common humanity in order to treat yourself as you would a friend.

What are the three principles of self-compassion?

Mindfulness

  • Mindful-self compassion looks like being in the present moment without judgment and recognizing that every moment will pass. In order to have compassion for your thoughts and feelings, you have to be aware of them, and practicing mindfulness can help us be more in tune with ourselves and our emotions.

Self-Kindness

  • Self compassion involves being gentle to yourself when you’re faced with challenges or perceived failure.

Common humanity

  • When people face hardships, they often isolate themselves and tell themselves that no one gets what they are going through. In reality, pain is part of the human experience. When you are going through something hard or feeling negative emotions, remembering that other people may have gone through or something similar can help us cope and gain perspective about our own struggles.

Learn more about the three principals of kindness here.

What are the benefits of self-compassion?

There are many benefits of self compassion. Self compassion is associated with:

  1. Lower levels of depression and anxiety and increased psychological well being
  2. Increased happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience
  3. Increased ability to tolerate difficult emotions and experiences without suppressing them
  4. Increased feelings of social connectedness.
  5. Increased spiritual well-being
  6. Being more likely to take risks
  7. Increased motivation

If you are used to being hard on yourself, it may take some getting used to to incorporate the principles of self compassion into your life. If it is hard for you to be kind to yourself, you are not alone. A therapist or mental health professional can help you learn how to be kind to yourself if that extra support is needed.

Blog written by Sentier therapist Andrea Schroeder, MS, LPCC.

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