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How to Stop Being Mean to Yourself

*This is part 2 in a series called “4 Questions for a Happier Day.”

Was I kind to myself?

This question is written in red in a tiny flip notebook on my dresser. I look at it at the end of each day and ask it to myself, as honestly as I can. 

It seems simple, right? A little touchy-feely perhaps.

But don’t let the Mr. Rogers-esque tone fool you. It is much harder to answer “Yes” to this question than you think. In fact, if you’re like me, saying “yes” to this might go against everything you’ve come to believe about yourself (namely, that whatever you do or produce is what makes you worthwhile). 

Being kind to myself is Good Day Metric #1, the first of my 4 Good Day Questions, because it’s the big daddy of them all, the one that I must do if I want any of the other ones to matter. It’s self-love, self-compassion, friendliness to myself. (These are all things I’ve typically sucked at, and you probably have, too.) 

You see, I learned early on to drive myself hard. Like a good American raised to believe I’m an individual who’s out there forging my own destiny by the sheer power of my will, I worked my tookus off in school. I got the grades to prove it. I got the college scholarship to prove it more. I got the respectable well-ish paying job (I mean, c’mon, I was a public school teacher! Well-ish is about as much as we can say for the pay) with good insurance (we can say that one with confidence, thanks teacher’s union!) to further prove that I was well and good and an upright and successful citizen.

Later on I went all-in on the American Dream and started my own business, captain of my own destiny, carving out my own entrepreneurial chunk of the world. During this time, I also married a wonderful man and had three beautiful kids. 

But the truth is…

I accomplished most of these things while being quite harsh to myself.

If you’d like a brief glimpse at my internal dialogue, here ya go: 

You can’t stop studying until you know every single vocabulary definition by heart and can cite a proper example. If you don’t, you’ll fail and disappoint everyone. You need to stay up later to finish this blog post or it won’t go out tomorrow and you’ll be a failure. Your lessons plans are due tomorrow so you better stay late and finish and they better be detailed and damn near perfect or else you aren’t as good of a teacher as so-and-so down the hall and your students will fail the state test and then everyone will know. You call that a landing page? That looks like crap! No wonder so-and-so entrepreneur at suchandsuch.com is more successful than you. Do you remember how you lost patience with your kids today? They will remember this when they’re older and resent you. Why haven’t you paid attention to your husband today? A good wife is supposed to pay attention to her husband! Why can’t you make time for him??? Are those pre-packaged snacks you’re sending to school? If you were more on-top-of-it and if you cared more about the environment, you’d be making homemade snacks and packaging them in reusable bags that you’d wash out and reuse tomorrow.  

Truth. There are tears in my eyes as I reread that. Even the stupid part about the snacks. But I’m being honest. This is but a brief glimpse into how I talk to myself on a daily basis. 

I’d like to say I love myself and that I have a lot of self-confidence, but honestly…

Much of what people perceive as self-confidence in me is simply the clever way I’ve learned to deal with feelings of inadequacy. 

It’s not like I’m even aware that I’m talking to myself like this most of the time. I’ve gotten so good at playing “well functioning and successful adult” that I can even fool myself most of the time. But if I dig really deep down, it’s there. 

I bet if you’re honest with yourself, it’s there for you, too. 

So kindness to myself is the first and most important metric, the #1 question I must ask myself to assess honestly, if I had a good day. And truly, if I managed to do just that–to love myself–and did nothing else all day, I’d be having a damn good day. 

So what does this look like? Mostly it looks no different than how I look on any other day. The difference is all felt, it’s inside. It’s telling myself “It’s okay, you’re trying your best” when I don’t accomplish as much as I put on my to-do list. It’s giving myself grace by saying, “It’s late afternoon, you’re tired, they’re tired, this is normal” when I lose patience with my kids. It’s saying, “But look how far you’ve come!” when I get down on myself for not being further along as an entrepreneur.

Basically, it’s like replacing my internal dialogue with that of my best and most loving friends and letting them talk to me all day.

It’s… quite nice.

Easy? Nah… I’d love to say I’ve perfected this and that I’m regularly giving myself internal high fives as the day goes on. But I’m a work in progress, slowly learning to recognize when I’m being harsh with me and kindly correcting. This is daily work, not a one-and-done solution to the problem of self-criticism.

So I’m curious… Do you struggle with being nice to yourself? How do you practice kindness to yourself throughout the day? I’d love for you to email me personally at [email protected] and let me know. I read all my email… although not all at once. 😉

To loving ourselves as much as we love others, 

PS Would you feel more loving toward yourself if you lived a more simplified lifestyle? If so, grab my FREE minimalism starter guide and let’s start creating some open spaces in your life today!

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