It is very difficult for me to be kind to myself. It is completely counterintuitive. I was taught not to boast. I was taught not to brag. I was taught to not marvel at myself too much. Being conceited was a bad thing. To be selfless is where it is at. To put others above myself (complete was Bible verses to boot). I was taught to be compassionate to others. I was taught to make others feel good about themselves. I was taught that sometimes keeping the peace was more important than being right. After all, sometimes life isn't fair. Toughen up and get over it. Unfortunately, I was a very good student. I learned to put others first, consider their needs and wants, and to boost their morale and sense of self-worth. However, no one ever taught me how to accomplish these same things for myself. Can you relate?
There are many reasons why it can be difficult to be kind to ourselves, but some common ones include: self-criticism, perfectionism, comparison, our childhood experiences, and cultural messages.
We are constantly describing the world to ourselves giving each event or experience some sort of label. Unfortunately, we tend to default towards negative labels especially towards ourselves. This self-criticism is one of the biggest obstacles to self-kindness. Many of us have an inner critic that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, or successful enough. This negative self-talk can be so ingrained that we don't even notice it anymore. It literally begins to happen on autopilot. It becomes an automatic response to any perceived failure or shortcoming. When we're constantly criticizing ourselves, it can be hard to see the good in ourselves. We become focused on our flaws and shortcomings, which can make it difficult to be kind to ourselves. We may feel like we don't deserve kindness or that we're not worthy of it.
Last week in our article, "Perfectionism Is Destroying Your Life: Here's How You Keep Fanning the Flames," we explored how perfectionism keeps us in an emotional prison by creating a cycle of self-criticism and fear of failure. Perfectionism is also another obstacle to self-kindness. When we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, we set ourselves up for failure. We may feel like we're not doing enough, even when we're putting in a lot of effort. We may become hyper-focused on our mistakes and flaws, which can make it difficult to be kind to ourselves. Perfectionism can also lead to procrastination and avoidance. When we're afraid of not living up to our own expectations, we may put off tasks or avoid them altogether. This can make us feel even worse about ourselves, which can make it even harder to be kind to ourselves.
In today's world, it's easy to compare ourselves to others. Social media and the internet make it nearly impossible not to see what everyone else is doing and achieving. From family, to childhood friends, to former coworkers-we are given what appears to be a front row seat into the lives of those in and out of our social circles. When we see others who appear to be doing better than us, it can be easy to feel like we're not measuring up. Unfortunately, this is how our human minds function. In some ways, comparison can be just the motivation and inspiration we need to accomplish our goals, after all if they can do it so can I. However, as we see with self-criticism and perfectionism, comparison to often times swings the pendulum to negative rather than positive. We may feel like we're not good enough. We may feel like we're not achieving as much as our peers. We may even feel like we're not as attractive or successful as others. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Comparisons can also create feelings of envy and jealousy, which can be harmful to our mental health. When we see someone else succeeding or achieving something we desire, we may feel envious or jealous of their success. These negative emotions can make it harder for us to be happy for others and can lead to feelings of resentment. When comparison swings the direction of leaving us feeling empty, unfulfilled, inferior, jealous, and depressed it makes it nearly impossible for us to be kind to ourselves.
Our childhood experiences can also impact our ability to be kind to ourselves. And there are two sides to this coin. If we grew up in an environment where we were criticized or belittled, we may struggle to be kind to ourselves as adults. We may have internalized the messages we received from our parents or caregivers and believe that we're not good enough. This negative self-talk can lead to feelings of unworthiness and can make it harder for us person to show ourselves kindness. If we grew up in households where we were not shown love or affection, we may later struggle with self-esteem issues. We may feel unimportant or unworthy of love, which can make it hard for us to show ourselves kindness or compassion. In other words, if love and support weren't modeled for us as children, it would explain why we have difficulty with loving and supporting ourselves later in life.
Alternatively, if we were praised excessively as children, we may have developed an unrealistic sense of self-importance. This can make it difficult to be kind to ourselves because we may feel like we're entitled to everything we want, and the world will be more than ready and willing to give us a harsh reality check.
In many cultures, there is a focus on achievement and success. We're taught from a young age that we need to work hard and achieve our goals if we want to be happy and successful. While this can be motivating, it can also lead us to prioritize our goals and accomplishments over our own well-being. When we're focused on achievement, it can be difficult to be kind to ourselves. We may feel like we need to push ourselves harder and harder, even when we're exhausted or overwhelmed. This hustle mentality guilt trips us into believing that we don't deserve rest or relaxation until we've achieved our goals. As discussed in our article, "12 Strategies for Preventing Burnout" we tend to be a culture high in burnout because we focus so much on production and output begin to feel overworked and undervalued. These feelings are not synonymous with being kind to ourselves.
Our culture also often promotes a "tough love" mentality, where we are encouraged to push through our struggles and persevere no matter what. While perseverance and determination can be admirable qualities, this mentality can also make it difficult for us to show ourselves kindness and self-compassion. We may feel like we need to be tough on ourselves in order to succeed, which can lead to negative self-talk and feelings of unworthiness.
Lastly, our culture often stigmatizes mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. This can create a sense of shame and self-blame in individuals who are struggling with these issues. It can make it difficult for individuals to seek help or show themselves kindness, as they may feel like they are weak or defective for experiencing these emotions. One of the reasons why Envision Coaching & Consulting LLC exists is to help promote stress management through wellness thus increasing self-compassion and self-kindness.
The Impact of Self-Kindness
When we're not kind to ourselves, it can have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being. We may feel stressed, anxious, or depressed. We may struggle with low self-esteem and have difficulty forming healthy relationships with others. Practicing self-kindness is not always easy, especially if we're used to being self-critical. Here are some tips for cultivating self-kindness in your life:
Notice your inner critic: Start paying attention to the negative self-talk in your head. When you notice your inner critic, try to replace those negative thoughts with more positive ones.
Take care of your physical wellness: Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. When we take care of our physical needs, we feel better emotionally and mentally.
Treat yourself like you would treat a friend: Imagine that a friend is going through the same thing you're going through. How would you treat them? Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion.
Practice self-care: Take time to do things that make you feel good, whether that's taking a bath, going for a walk, or reading a book. Prioritizing self-care can help us feel more positive and energized.
Become your own cheerleader: Instead of focusing on your mistakes and shortcomings, take time to celebrate your successes. Whether it's a big accomplishment or a small one, give yourself credit for the things you do well.
Being kind to ourselves can be challenging for many people. Despite the fact that we know it's important to take care of ourselves and treat ourselves with compassion, many of us find it difficult to practice self-kindness on a regular basis. Tell us what you think in the comments below. What are some reasons you think that make it harder for people to show themselves kindness?
In this article, we explored some of the reasons why it can be hard to be kind to ourselves and the impact this can have on our well-being. Now that we recognize these obstacles, it is my hope that we will work to overcome them so we can be kinder to ourselves. And please remember, as you begin this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!
"Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love. ~Brene Brown
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