You know how to be kind to others, but are you nice to yourself, too? Self-kindness may seem like a simple concept, and yet many of us have trouble being kind and loving toward ourselves. If you grew up being self-critical, self-judging and struggled with self-acceptance, then chances are you don’t yet have the nurturing and supportive relationship with yourself that you could have. Don’t worry, that’s about to change.
When you start with just a few simple positive, loving steps, your life will transform in amazing ways. I’ve packed this post with insights into what self-kindness looks like, feels likes, and sounds like, along with directions on how to ditch unkind habits that don’t serve you.
It’s time you liked yourself more and were nicer to yourself every day. It’s time to start planting the seeds of self-kindness to begin your self-love practice.
Table of Contents
What does self-kindness really mean?
Self-kindness is being compassionate and loving towards yourself in your thoughts, words and actions. Self-compassion and self-kindness are two sides of the same coin; when you practice developing one trait, the other manifests, too.
In her Ted Talk, Harvard psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, Susan David explains how you can cultivate self-kindness and compassion. She says that people who have greater levels of self-compassion are highly motivated and achieve more. They don’t get trapped in self-judgment and blame and are better able to learn from each experience. Moreover, they truly like themselves, imperfections and all.
In her article, How to Contend with Being Your Own Harshest Critic, Liza Gertler, M.A., cites Dr. Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion. Gertler says, “Self-kindness involves being open and moved by our own suffering while simultaneously allowing for caring and kindness toward ourselves.” Being patient and non-judgmental toward yourself is key.
Are you living with a bully inside your head?
How would it feel if you had to spend every day interacting with a bully? Think about it; day after day, you’re living or working with a serious bully, someone who is rude, thoughtless, mocking, and flat-out mean to you—verbally hateful and perhaps even physically abusive. That sounds like a horrible way to live, right?
Many of us live day-to-day with an inner bully inside our heads. ur negative inner voice—often called our inner critic—can be harsh, hateful, condescending and demoralizing. Are you living with a bully in your head? Then you know what that’s like.
What would happen if you changed that critical inner voice to a more nurturing, supportive and uplifting voice? What would happen if you were nice to yourself? It would change everything.
Why is self-kindness important?
Self-kindness is a lot like living 24/7 with a nurturing, caring, loving, and positive mentor and friend—and that person is you! When you’re kind to yourself, your inner dialogue is supportive. Your actions are based on positive reinforcement, which is far more effective than bullying.
Here are just a handful of benefits of practicing self-kindness:
- It feels better than being mean to yourself
- Improves your sense of self-esteem and self-worth
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
- Enhances resilience in times of challenge and struggle
- Fosters a more positive outlook on life
- Makes you better able to cope with life’s inevitable ups and down
- You are more likely to take better care of yourself and your health
- Leads to a happier, more fulfilling life
What being unkind to yourself looks like (with examples)
There are many different ways you are unkind to yourself. And, you may be very sweet and supportive in some areas yet brutally hard on yourself than on others.
If you recognize yourself in any of the following scenarios, then there’s room for you to improve your self-kindness.
Examples of what being unkind to yourself looks like:
- Negative self-talk, such as calling yourself names or putting yourself down
- Comparing yourself unfavorably to others
- Being overly critical of your mistakes or failures
- Not standing up for yourself and allowing others to take advantage of you
- Belittling yourself when you don’t reach a goal
- Withholding self-care, such as not eating well, not getting enough sleep, or not engaging in physical activity
- Blaming yourself for things that are not entirely your fault
- Refusing to forgive yourself for your mistakes
- Being overly perfectionistic
- Never feeling satisfied with your accomplishments
- Constantly seeking validation from others and neglecting your own sense of self-worth
- Engaging in substance abuse or other harmful behaviors
- Always neglecting your own needs and desires in favor of others
- Overthinking and ruminating on negative experiences.
- Setting goals that are unrealistic goals
- Focusing solely on your weaknesses and ignoring your strengths
- Not setting boundaries and allowing others to treat you poorly
- Staying in toxic relationships or situations
- Not speaking up for yourself or asserting your needs
- Avoiding revealing your true self in interactions and social settings
- Not taking responsibility for your actions and choices
- Overworking or overloading yourself with responsibilities
- Ignoring or dismissing your own needs and feelings
- Overgeneralizing negative experiences and assuming the worst outcomes
Examples of what being unkind to yourself sounds like:
- “I’m not good enough.”
- “I always mess things up.”
- “I’m such a failure.”
- “I can never do anything right.”
- “I’m a loser.”
- “I’ll never learn this; I’ll never get better at this.”
- “I’m not smart enough.”
- “I’m too fat/thin/ugly.”
- “I’ll never achieve my goals.”
- “I’m so stupid.”
- “What’s the point of having goals; I’ll never get what I want.”
- “I always mess things up.”
- “I don’t deserve happiness/success/love.”
- “I’m worthless.”
- “I don’t deserve to have what I want.”
It’s important to remember that these unkind thoughts and behaviors are not accurate and can have a negative impact on your well-being Instead of dwelling in negativity and criticism, it’s far better to engage in positive thinking and self-talk, such as reminding yourself of your strengths, accomplishments, and progress, and to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
In his post, The Art of Kindness on the Mayo Clinic Health System blog, Steve Siegle, a licensed professional counselor in Psychiatry & Psychology, says: “ People are good at verbally beating themselves up, and rarely does that work as a pep talk. Rather, negativity often causes you to unravel and may even create a vicious cycle of regularly getting down on yourself. You wouldn’t talk to your neighbor the way you sometimes talk to yourself … If you would not say it to your good neighbor, do not say it about yourself.”
17 Ways to practice being kind to yourself
There are so many ways to be kind to yourself, the list is literally endless. Here are just a few of my favorites:
Examples of self-kindness activities and behaviors:
- Participate in enjoyable “Me Time Activities.”
- Connect with nature and spend time outdoors.
- Take breaks from social media and comparison-based thinking.
- Engage in activities that make you happy, such as exercise, hobbies, relaxation, or creative pursuits.
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Take some time for self-development; read a book on self-love or building your confidence; or just read some fiction that makes you smile!
- Surround yourself with supportive and positive people.
- Start a new hobby you’ve always wanted to pursue
- Practice mindfulness and ditch your obsession with the past and worries about the future.
- Get enough sleep, eat healthy and nourishing foods, and drink plenty of water.
- Laugh and have fun.
- Write in a journal or reflect on your thoughts and feelings.
- Practice gratitude by listing things you’re thankful for.
- Join a group activity that sounds fun to you.
- Focus on what makes you happy and what brings you joy
- Set new healthy boundaries with those who would otherwise take advantage of you
- Practice “thought pivots;” when you see your mind returning to negative self-talk, flip the switch; replace each unkind, negative thought with ten positive, kind thoughts.
Below are three more ways to practice self-kindness, complete with specific directions.
Self-kindness visualization exercise
Think of a person in your life whom you love unconditionally. In this exercise, it’s best to picture a loving spouse, parent, child, or dear friend—someone for whom your love knows no bounds.
Now, think of the encouraging, supportive, beautiful words you’d use to describe them. Consider how dear this person is to your heart. Think of the wonderful things you’d like to do to show this beloved person in your life what they mean to you.
Do you have those thoughts and actions clearly visualized? Great! Now, direct all that loving kindness that you were so willing to heap on someone else, and offer it to yourself instead. When you can be as kind and loving to yourself as you are to those you love most in life, your world will transform in amazing ways.
Self-kindness in practice: create a self-love jar
Self-kindness doesn’t happen all at once. That’s why it’s helpful to have reminders around that gently pull you back into self-loving mode when you’ve wandered off course. I wrote a post about how to create a self-love jar, explaining how to create it, what to put in it, and how you should use your self-love jar to enhance your life.
Start self-kindness in the morning
Creating a mindful morning routine is a terrific act of self-kindness. Adding even a little movement to your mornings, meditating, practicing positive affirmations, or spending some time writing in a self-awareness and self-discovery journal are all positive ways to be kind to yourself. Plus, a great morning routine sets the stage for a happier, less stressful day, so it’s a win-win!
Start being kinder to yourself every day
If you’re been less than kind to yourself for a while now, it may take some time to embrace the self-kindness practices outlined above. Taking the time to be kind and self-loving in thoughts, words, and actions will be nothing short of life-transforming for you. And, dear one, you’re worth it!
“Scientific data shows that self-criticism makes us weaker in the face of failure, more emotional, and less likely to assimilate lessons from our failures. Studies are finding that there is a far better alternative to self-criticism: self-compassion.” – Dr. Emma Seppala
If you need a little help developing a kinder, more self-loving relationship with yourself, check out these resources we found on Amazon.