Updated: May 24
Read below for 7 tips on how to be good to yourself, and some reasons why it is so hard to be nice to yourself.
Have you ever heard the sentiment that we are our own biggest enemy? Or perhaps that we are always the most critical of ourselves… Why is that? Why is it so hard to be nice to yourself?
In my experience as a mental health clinician, I have found that most of my clients have really high expectations for themselves. They are almost always willing to give the benefit of the doubt to others, but never to themselves. Many of my clients share the general idea that “others are allowed to fail, but not me.”
Even though we know exactly how hard our own struggle is, and have no idea about any one else’s, we still always think we could have and SHOULD have done better.
Keep reading below for 7 ways to be nicer to yourself.
This tendency to be so harsh on yourself can stem from many places. One of those places is a lack of self-compassion. Self-compassion is, simply put, recognizing the imperfect human that is You. Capital Y- You. You are a human being, just like the rest of us, and because of that, you deserve the same care and compassion that you likely offer to others.
There is the belief that if we are tougher on ourselves, we will get more done. You probably learned this in the context of a productivity based culture, which studies have disproved time and time again. The literature actually shows that a little bit of compassion goes a long way.
My theory is that we compare our blooper reel to others' highlight reels. Think of it in terms of instagram. If you want to post a picture you might do your hair or make up, pick out an outfit, clean the space around you or find the perfect angle, take several shots, get in an argument with your partner about not getting the right shot and start over again. It’s time consuming and stressful. Then you have to add the filter, maybe crop something out, and so on. Finally you post the picture!
Contrast that to when we look at our feed, all we see is that end result photo. We don’t see the same amount of work that went into it. And that makes us feel like shit. And it happens in all aspects of our lives.
Learning how to be nicer to yourself takes some unlearning too. It can be uncomfortable to offer yourself compassion; it can feel self indulgent. Many people are scared that if they are nice to themselves then they won’t ever achieve anything. When you are good to yourself, I promise that you won’t stop achieving, you might even achieve more. It feels much better to do something just because it feels nice rather than to do something in order to avoid punishment- especially when it's self punishment.
The moment you've been waiting for:
7 Tips on How to Be Nicer to Yourself
1. Treat Yourself as You Would Treat a Friend
This is one of the simplest ways to get started on being nicer to yourself. Think about how you treat your friends, what you say to them when they fail, how you respond when they are having a bad day, and start talking to yourself in the same way.
For example, if your friend was up for a promotion at work and they didn’t get it, you probably aren’t going to tell them that it's because they aren’t good enough, they didn’t work hard enough or long enough hours and that they will probably get fired next (at least I really hope that isn’t how you treat your friends). You are likely going to tell them it’s ok, that something better will come along, give them advice on how to approach their leader to prepare for the next opportunity, etc… Start doing that for yourself and watch your reality transform.
2. Check in with Your Body
This one requires a little bit of mindfulness and a lot of patience. We spend a lot of time up in our heads not noticing what our bodies are telling us. Our bodies are made to move and to feel. When you are sitting at your desk, you can do a quick body scan working from the feet up. Let me show you how to do a body scan:
Start by sitting up tall with your feet on the ground. Tap your toes and notice the sensation. Wiggle your legs, move your thighs out wide and then move knees back together. Allow your stomach to fall over your belt, releasing the tension of holding it in. Take a deep breath. Lift your arms up above your head, gently place them back down and pay attention to the muscles that engage in order for you to do that. Shake your head yes and no. As you move through each body part, pay attention to any sensations or feelings. There you go, you just did a quick body scan, what did you find?
3. Write down Your Accomplishments or "Wins"
This is always a fun activity for my clients. Write down everything that you consider a win or an accomplishment. Write down things that other people have told you are wins but maybe you didn’t see that way. For example, when I moved from Oklahoma to Oregon, so many people would say to me “Oh wow, what an accomplishment.” or “Wow, that’s so cool!” I just considered it something that I had to do in order to live the life I wanted, so it wasn’t a big deal. But it is a big deal to follow your dreams and to do good things for yourself so write those down too!
4. Cook Delicious Foods
Feed yourself something that brings you joy. If you can’t cook, I give you permission to buy something that you enjoy, but I definitely encourage you to try and find something simple to prepare for yourself. Feeding yourself foods that bring you joy and make your body feel good are such a lovely treat. Try to make this a habit. When you continue to feed yourself good food, you are treating yourself with kindness from the inside.
5. Try the Loving-Kindness Meditation
Loving Kindness is a traditional Buddhist meditation with a focus on cultivating positive, loving feelings toward all beings (which includes you). If you are not a Buddhist, that’s ok, there doesn’t have to be any religiosity in this practice. Here is a short guided meditation if you’d like to follow along. As you sit in your meditation, you will begin by thinking about yourself and saying to yourself “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be loved.” Then you will continue saying those phrases as you draw your attention outward to encompass more and more people- starting with your loved ones, people in your life that you feel neutral about, people that you may feel negative about, and expanding out to all living beings. There are many different variations, so feel free to explore and find a version that feels good for you.
6. Take Yourself on Dates
It might feel awkward to take yourself out on a date, but don't knock it until you try it! One way to take away from the awkwardness is to bring your journal or a book. Treat yourself to dinner, spend some time reflecting on your life (you could even use this time to complete # 3 and write down your wins). Spending time alone and really learning how to enjoy time with yourself cultivates that self love and appreciation that allows you to want to be good to yourself.
7. Accept Uncertainty
The final step isn’t so simple, but it’s important. Another way to say this is to accept your humanness. You aren’t perfect, no one is. That’s ok. We all still deserve to be loved and treated with respect. Learning how to accept uncertainty and knowing that you can’t always plan everything out is an important part of life. When you leave room for mistakes, it isn’t so disappointing or heartbreaking when they happen. In a way, you are expecting them to happen so they lose their power.
It's Important to be Good to Yourself
If you are struggling with being nicer to yourself, try one or more of the tips above! Even just having the intention to be good to yourself can make a difference in the way that you act. Remember that you are a human, just like everyone else, and you deserve the same love and respect that we all do, especially from yourself.
If you want to learn more about being nicer to yourself, maybe working with a therapist can help!
Kaylin is a licensed therapist in Orange County, California and creator of intentional living for the chaotic mind. With an all virtual practice, Kaylin is able to work with anyone in the state of California.