You might be all-too used to berating yourself. In fact, the criticism and judgment arise automatically. It’s as though they roll off your tongue with every breath. I can’t believe I slept in! Why do I need so much sleep?! My to-do list is massive. Because I decided to rest. Like a weakling. I look terrible! No one has a hard time with anxiety like this. It’s so embarrassing. I can’t believe I ate an entire bag of cookies. I’m so ashamed.
The way we talk to ourselves is vital. It influences everything from how we feel to how we structure our days to how we take care of ourselves to what our relationships look like.
Several days ago, I shared a list of powerful mantras we can use to cultivate a self-compassionate mindset. Because we can learn to be kinder to ourselves, even if we’ve spent years doing the complete opposite. When I think of being kind, I don’t think of being positive or looking on the bright side. I don’t think of ignoring negative feelings and pretending that pain doesn’t exist. That’s not being kind. Rather, I think of being understanding, empathetic, patient, encouraging and supportive. As such, below are examples of kind words, reminders and questions for all sorts of situations.
- I’m not alone in this. There are so many people struggling with ________ right this moment, right this minute. There are people crying and grieving. There are people recently and not-so recently diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder. There are people wondering what the heck they’re doing with their lives. There are people who are tired and feel disconnected from themselves. There are people who are unsure and afraid. There are people clinging to a relationship they don’t even want because they are terrified of change. Whatever I’m going through, I’m most certainly not alone.
- Instead of seeing _______ as a failure, what happens when I focus on what I can learn? Where can I grow as a person?
- It’s OK to feel this way. It’s OK if I’m not over it yet.
- What does this feeling feel like in my body?
- What do I need right now?
- Would I judge someone else for this feeling or behavior or mistake or bad decision?
- I can let this go. I don’t have to carry it.
- I have the right to say no.
- I have the right to speak up respectfully.
- So many people get anxious, too. Yes, even about “small” and “silly” things. People just don’t talk about it. They keep it to themselves and struggle in silence.
- Being happy all the time is impossible. My other emotions have wisdom, too—if I just listen.
- I didn’t choose to struggle with _________. But I can choose this healthy, supportive next step …. (making an appointment with a therapist, journaling, attending a support group, reaching out to a friend).
- I don’t have to feel good about my body in order to treat it with respect. I can just start with the behavior, and my thoughts will follow.
- If my best friend were in the same relationship, what would I suggest?
- It’s OK to feel painful emotions. I can breathe through this pain. I can write about it. I can express it. And eventually I can let it go.
- I am not lazy. I am tired, and resting will rejuvenate me. I don’t need to wait until I’m burnt out and bawling before taking a break.
- I feel overwhelmed. What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?
- I am stronger than I think.
- I ate that bag of cookies because I was feeling really sad and thought it would cheer me up. But I feel even worse and am not feeling good in my body. I can take a long walk to help me feel better—and I can work on forgiving myself, because it’s really OK.
- I am imperfect. I am doing the best I can.
After the criticism and cruel words fly out, pause. Close your eyes, and breathe in. Breathe out. Then try using kinder words, words that actually help you feel less alone, words that support and inspire you, words that comfort and calm. Words of understanding and, ultimately, love.
This takes practice. Thankfully, kindness is a skill we can cultivate. Every moment is a new opportunity to begin.