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Happiness Tip - Go Easy on Yourself - Christine Carter

Happiness Tip: Go Easy on Yourself

Fun fact: Most people are starting to falter at their New Year’s Resolutions by now.

If you are anything like me, setbacks, lapses, and mistakes can come with a fair amount of self-flagellation. Somehow I think that if I’m really hard on myself, I’ll be less likely to make the same mistake again, or I’ll motivate myself towards better performance in the future. Admitting our failings does not need to come with commensurate self-criticism, however.

Here’s why: Self-criticism doesn’t work. It doesn’t actually motivate us. Instead, self-criticism is associated with decreased motivation and future improvement.

Self-compassion — being warm and supportive towards ourselves, and actively soothing ourselves–does help matters when we make a mistake or the going gets rough. It leads to less anxiety and depression, greater peace of mind, and, importantly, it makes us feel more motivated to make the improvements we need to.

Take Action: The next time you flub-up, take a deep breath and soothe yourself like you might a small child: use kind, reassuring words to ease yourself out of a stress response (which will only make matters worse).

Photo courtesy of Matty Ring.

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  • Katie at TheMonarchCompany.com

    I also find it helpful — rather than focusing on either criticizing or soothing — to simply view mistakes as information that I can apply to life. So for example, if I want to get up early to exercise but I fail one morning, take a look at the reasons why, and then look for solutions to make it easier to succeed the next day.

  • Diane Hunter

    Hooray! Self-compassion is one of my favorite ways to return to a state of harmony and from that place creativity blooms and joy expands into all my relationships. It shows my children a different way to learn from mistakes and rather than judge and beat myself up, they get to see a mom who is kind, loving and playful. I don’t choose this path all the time and I’m practicing…part of the human journey! So they also get to see the other side as well and we all agree that the kinder way is so much more fun and loving. 🙂 Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

  • Sofia

    Thank you. This type of advice is *very* helpful.

  • tungwaiyip

    I have an experience from long time ago, before I have know anything about self-compassion.

    I have resigned from my company after working there for three years, the first company after my graduation. There is not any serious aggravation. I simply want a change in my life. That night I have retreated to my apartment. I feel a lot of disappointment in myself. In three years I have arose from a junior member to a key project leader. I recount all the initiatives that I have promised but have not completed. I think of all the trust my boss have placed on me. I recall all the rosy ideas I have proposed but have yet to bear any fruit. And now I am walking away. In my mind I start to apologize to my boss, my mentors and my partners for letting them down.

    Then another me has arisen to comfort me. He said “I know this is hard. I forgive you.” I distinctly remember how relieved I was that I was forgiven, even if all this are just some thought going on in my head.

  • ADHD Mom

    Thank you for this lovely tip! A dear friend forwarded it to me. My own “method” of going easy on myself is to step back and ask if what I am requiring of myself is *realistic* or *perfectionistic*. My other self-question is whether I would judge another person if they felt/acted/guilted/worried the same. Almost always, the expectation is unrealistic, and i would never hold someone to the standards I hold myself to.

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