We can be kind to others. We can even be kind to others we don’t like. Why can’t we be kind to ourselves? Aren’t we supposed to love our neighbor as we love ourselves? When did we lose this assumed correlation between our love for ourselves and others? Did we ever have it?
Many of us don’t know how to be kind to ourselves. No one ever taught us how to be kind to ourselves. Some of us have even been brainwashed into thinking that being kind to ourselves will result in our being unkind to others. It’s important for each of us to figure out what keeps our kindness from applying to ourselves.
In all my years of schooling (and I’ve had a lot), I don’t remember taking a course called “Self-Kindness 101” or any other type of class to teach me how to be nice to myself. If you are like me and you were never taught this stuff, here’s a short lesson in how to be kind to yourself when you are struggling.
First, recognize that you are struggling. Drop the stiff upper lip and get a grip on what you’re feeling. Next, name your feeling: This is the same thing you do when you confirm another struggler’s feelings. Tell yourself something like, “I know, you’re feeling sad.” Don’t make any judgments about the feeling: Just name it and claim it as how you feel.
Next, do something physical to start to help yourself: Rub your arm, squeeze your hands, or even give yourself a great big hug. Research shows that these actions can calm down our emotional need for fighting, freezing, or fleeing associated with the struggles of life. It is also important to breathe. Get some oxygen to your brain: Take a deep breath (not a sigh): Pretend you have a balloon in your stomach and blow it up, hold it and then slowly let the air out.
Next, talk to yourself in a kind way. Dr. Neff even suggests using a term of endearment with yourself like “Darling” or “Honey”. Guys can try words like “Bud”, “Bro”, “Dude” or whatever you call your fellow buds, bros, or dudes when they are struggling. Get personal with yourself as you would a friend.
Next, kindly ask yourself, “What caused these feelings?” to try and figure out what problem caused you to feel this way. Was it an argument with your spouse? Was it a missed sale? Was it a poor grade? What caused you to feel so lousy? Then, try to figure out what negative self-talk your “inner-critic” is using against you. This can be difficult to recognize. It happens really fast, so ask yourself, “What negative statements are you saying to yourself about this problem, Darling (or Bro)?” These self-statements usually contain the words “I”, “me”, or “my” and contain negative words like no, never, and not.
Finally, give your inner critic a good argument: Look for evidence or alternatives against your negative belief. For example, if your inner critic says, “You’re never going to finish this project,” kindly ask yourself, “Is that really true?” and “What’s happened when I have thought this before?” Be bold and ask yourself, “What can I do to prove this inner critic wrong?” Make a plan and then do it!
Need Help Applying This Concept?
For more ideas about dealing with negative self-talk, see my previously written posts on this subject.
Need More Help Applying This Concept?
Call 817.421.8780 to make an appointment. Dr. Davenport is happy to help you or your loved one battle your inner critic.
© 2010-2014, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.