BY: Sara Trayman
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It’s a tough world out there. Sometimes though, our worst critics are not our friends and our family, it is us. We are often quick to notice what has gone wrong and what we did badly-how often do we take the time to be kind and understanding with ourselves?
Instead of the usual critical comments we might say to ourselves ‘you’re so rubbish, you’re always doing that’, ‘why do you always say the wrong thing’, ‘you are weak, everyone else would be able to cope with this’ we need to find alternative ways to talk to ourselves which are kinder. Not only will this improve our belief and self-confidence but it is also one way in which to improve our psychological well-being and fight off the negative feelings often associated with low mood and anxiety.
When we first try to be kind to ourselves we are at a loss in how to talk to ourselves differently. In these circumstances we may want to have a menu of different strategies that we can try. When we first use these techniques it is a bit like when we first learn to drive-we have to think about every move we make. After practicing for a long time we slowly find that these skills become more automatic. Here are just a few of the techniques you may find helpful.
What would your best friend/biggest fan say?
It can be difficult to think positively about ourselves when we are used to being self-critical. Thinking from the perspective of someone else who does appreciate us and see the good in us can be a way in which to consider ourselves in a more favourable light. Ask yourself what your best friend or biggest fan would say to encourage you and help you to believe in yourself. Then start to consider what evidence there is that perhaps there is some truth to this and you may even start to believe these ideas.
What is the worst that could happen?
We often worry about how things are going to turn out and can ‘catastrophise’ which means only being able to see the worst possible outcomes. It can help to face these possibilities head on and ask ourselves what the worst thing is that could happen. Also, what it would be like if the worse thing did happen and how we would cope. This can help us realise that even the worst thing (whilst probably unlikely to happen when we really explore it) is something we can actually cope with. This in turn makes things feel more manageable and less frightening.
How can I recognise the small victories?
Sometimes we can feel lost in the aspects of our lives we feel are not going well. In order to keep going and feel motivated to continue it can be important to focus on our small victories. Taking time every day to notice three things we have done well or feel pleased with can help us to notice the improvements we have made and to realise that each step forward is significant and something to be proud of.
Being kinder with help from others
Sometimes it can be tough getting started-not all of these strategies work well for everyone, trial and error is the key. But also asking others for help and encouragement can be vital to identifying the ways in which we are being tough on ourselves-often the people who know us best can see this most clearly. Professional help may be useful at times too and finding a therapist you trust and who can work alongside you to develop these strategies may help you along this journey.
If in doubt, be kind and understanding to yourself-if you are not-who will be?