You don’t feel good about yourself. In fact, you feel terrible.
Maybe it’s your weight, your hips, your nose. Maybe it’s your inability to run or do push-ups. Maybe you compare yourself to others on everything—intelligence level, creativity, productivity, money—and inevitably come up short. Maybe it’s because your once clear, smooth skin is becoming rough and wrinkled.
There may be many reasons you don’t feel good about yourself, and you’re likely very frustrated, angry, disappointed.
But you don’t have to feel this way. And you don’t have to bash yourself even more.
According to clinical psychologist and couples therapist Tracy Dalgleish, C.Psych., when we feel bad about ourselves, we tend to use self-criticism to spark action. After all, that’ll motivate us to change, right? Maybe you tell yourself, she said, you should try harder! You should get it together! You know better. Stop being an idiot!
However, self-criticism “ends up creating more internal pressure and ultimately backfires on improving how [we] feel about [our]selves,” said Dalgleish, who focuses on taking therapy outside of the therapy room by providing e-courses, community presentations, and workplace wellness seminars.
“Self-criticism prevents people from being able to show up as they are,” she said.
So what can you do?
Dalgleish shared these five wise strategies:
- Focus on who you are. Focus away from your appearance, and focus away from what you can and cannot do. Instead, according to Dalgleish, “What would your friends say about you? We are able to hold a compassionate view of ourselves when we think of what our dearest friend would say about us.” Similarly, she stressed the importance of focusing on the “parts of you that contribute to the world you live in.”
- Create a radical statement of acceptance. Instead of seeing yourself critically or focusing on what you need to change, see “what is with a lens of self-acceptance,” Dalgleish said. For instance, she said, you might stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and say: “I am right where I need to be,” or “You have everything that you need.” The key is to pick a statement that resonates with you, and feels honest and authentic.
- Build a grateful mindset. Every day say three things that you are grateful for. According to Dalgleish, you might express gratitude for your health or for what your body does for you. “Sometimes when it doesn’t feel like you have anything to be grateful for, try practicing being grateful for this moment and just for [your] breath.” There are so many ways to practice gratitude. As with the radical statement above, the important thing is to find a practice that speaks to you. (Here are seven other options.) Also, remember that you don’t have to feel great to practice gratitude—you can even practice when you’re feeling depressed.
- Get out of your head. Our minds are very creative storytellers. Sometimes, this is a good thing. And other times, it makes us feel worse. Often, Dalgleish said, these stories center on our lovability and worthiness, or lack thereof, as in: If only I were a few pounds thinner, then I’d feel better, I’d be happier, I’d finally have peace. “This is what the mind does: It chatters.” So instead of trying to eliminate these thoughts, Dalgleish suggested doing two things. One is to realize the truth: “Thoughts are just thoughts. Begin to see your thoughts as just that.” The second thing is to do something every day that gets you out of your head. “You might go for a walk; take 10 slow, deep breaths; call a friend; splash cold water on your face; or take a hot shower,” she said.
- Mind the media. Dalgleish’s favorite questions to ask clients are: “Who is profiting from your insecurity?” and “Do you want to give them that power?” For example, with social media, “You don’t get to be a consumer of what you take in—the algorithms are deciding for you and presenting you with [images, messages, and ads] about what they think you need. Tuning into your internal self-worth is so key for being able to manage so many of these messages, while also learning to take intentional, frequent breaks from the media we are consuming.”
When you don’t feel good about yourself, one of the best things you can do is to lead with self-compassion. The above strategies speak to being patient, understanding, and gentle with yourself. Because when you approach yourself with kindness, you can never go wrong.