How to be kinder to yourself

I used to dread the end of the year. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I’d always have so much regret as I lamented over this imaginary deadline for ambitious goals I could never meet. This time around, however, I’m sure I share the sentiments of many people when I say that I’m just ready for this — [insert whatever expletive you want to use] — year to be finally over. Of course, no one gets a do-over, and nothing will magically improve once the clock strikes 12, but I take comfort in the opportunity to continue evolving in a new year.

I didn’t have this mindset until more recently, though. In fact, just over a week ago, I broke down to a close friend. I admitted that all the hardships from the year have taken their toll on me, and I haven’t been doing as well as I’ve let on. He responded, “Really? You don’t feel like you’ve changed from all that?” A little taken aback by this question, I paused, and then mumbled something like, “Well, I mean, I guess I’ve improved in some ways…”

That was the moment I realized I hadn’t been giving myself enough credit for what I did accomplish — the personal growth I had undergone despite (and often as a result of) the emotional turmoil I had faced. There I was, sinking into the depths of self-pity and teetering on the border of self-destruction, completely forgetting what I was capable of. I knew I had to flip the script and turn the self-pity into self-compassion.

Before making your New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to be kinder to yourself in your end of the year reflections. Below are a few ways to do that, based on my own musings from the past year:

Practice Self-Affirmations

If you prefer affirmations from others over self-affirmations, I get it. Just the thought of praising myself, or talking to myself in general, can make me cringe. When I experienced a breakup over the summer — one that my anxiety had anticipated — instead of spiraling into the usual feelings of self-doubt and low self-worth, I reminded myself several times that I had the ability to get through it. I literally repeated to myself, “You’re going to be OK.” And this time around, I managed to heal from it faster than I had in the past. I’m not going to pretend it’s an easy thing to do, but I’m convinced that the more you affirm yourself, the more you’ll start to believe what you’re saying. Remind yourself that you have the strength and the ability to move forward.

Give Yourself Grace

A few months ago, my therapist told me I was being too hard on myself as I beat myself up for not being productive enough. When I apologized to classmates and colleagues for not being able to produce my best work, I quickly learned that none of them had even noticed, and most of them were in the same boat as me. I could dive deeper into my childhood trauma and unpack this a bit more, but I won’t do that here. We all have the power to reframe the narratives in our minds and not let the criticism we received as children govern the way we judge ourselves as adults. Try to cut yourself some slack. You did the best you could this year, and that was more than enough. Avoid holding yourself to an impossible standard or comparing yourself against others. None of us were ever at 100% battery life in the past year, and we didn’t expect others to be either.

Turn Challenges Into Learning Opportunities

Every year has its ups and downs, but the past year has challenged us in more ways than we had expected. As I look back on the experiences that gave me discomfort, I’ve started to put myself on the path of self-awareness and discovery by asking myself questions. Think about the moments that challenged you. When things didn’t go according to plan, how did you react? When you had an issue with a friend, family member or significant other, did you have an open and honest conversation about it, or did you sweep the problem under the rug? What worked and what didn’t work for you? Hold yourself accountable, give yourself grace and aim for improvements over regrets.

Give Yourself Permission to Sit With Any Grief

I experienced several losses this past year, but the death of my maternal grandmother in September put me in the darkest mental headspace I’ve ever been in. Months later, my emotions continue to evolve and manifest in new and terrifying ways. Whether you’re grieving a death, a breakup, a canceled milestone, infertility or unemployment, allow yourself the time and space to feel whatever you’re feeling. It doesn’t matter how long ago you experienced the loss either. There will always be triggers, especially as you look back on the year. Healing takes time, and grief — in its varying stages — is a lifelong journey.

Acknowledge Your Impact on Others

When you’re in a dark place, it’s easy to question or forget your worth and value to others. While I’m not trying to go all “It’s A Wonderful Life” on you (great movie, though), I do want to remind you that you make a positive impact on more people than you realize. Even the small things you’ve done, like sending a simple “thank you” email to a coworker, complimenting a family member on their cooking, responding to an old friend’s Instagram story or opening a door for a stranger, could’ve made a big difference in the other person’s life. Think about the times you made someone smile in the past year, the times you smiled back, and know that your existence matters.

Celebrate How Far You’ve Come

Usually, when a year comes to a close, I have this tendency to ruminate on the resolutions that failed to stick, and the larger goals I never accomplished. But this year, I’ve decided to think about success a little differently, holding onto all the ways I’ve continued to make progress despite the challenges. Reflect on how you’ve already begun laying down the foundation for your goals. (If all you’ve done is research or brainstorm, that still counts as progress!) Just because another year is over, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. Like I mentioned earlier, you can continue evolving in the new year.

In those moments, when your mind tries to tell you that you’re a failure, remember that just getting through the year was a success in itself. You’re here. You survived. And that’s the greatest accomplishment you could’ve ever made.

How to be kinder to yourself

Self-compassion is a vital part of feeling purposeful, well, and happy.

You may be thinking, “That’s great, but what is self-compassion and why is it important?”

By understanding self-compassion, you can begin applying certain strategies in your life that will not only make you kinder towards yourself but will also help you love yourself.

Self-compassion is the ability to view yourself as an inherently flawed human being. It is when you can talk to yourself with the same voice you would use with a friend.

When you can view what you are doing, how you look, and your actions with patience, understanding, and loving energy, then that is self-compassion.

But most people end up comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate. Comparison never gives us the full picture of anyone’s life. Comparison can come in the form of career, body image, relationships, your home, kids, or any other aspect of your life.

We can be our harshest critics. We wouldn’t dream of saying the things we say to ourselves to others.

So, be honest about your self-talk: What are the things you think or say to yourself daily? What do you say to yourself when you are looking in the mirror or comparing your life to others?

Do you work hard trying to prove your self-worth? Do you wait till you are done with your work to allow yourself to engage in self-care such as eating, or resting?

What would happen if you showed yourself kindness, acknowledged you who you are, and didn’t have to justify self-care?

If you are asking yourself how you can improve your self-compassion and love yourself more, here are 2 important steps.

1. Notice your current level of self-compassion.

Pay attention to how you speak to yourself. Do you compare yourself to others, and if so, how? Are you withholding self-care unless you have “earned it”?

Start tracking these questions one at a time, working on each individually.

Pick the one that is easiest for you to track first. Write it down. After a week, take a good look at what is happening.

2. Choose differently.

How would you like to speak to yourself, compare, or take care of yourself? What would take to feel like you are worth the effort?

Start implementing this in your life. If you are working on your self-talk, maybe put up notes around your house with the new things you want to say.

Write out how you want to talk to yourself in the morning or before going to bed at night.

Take the time to shift your self-compassion. Then, notice how you feel.

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Do you feel calmer, more content, less critical, or irritable? Do you think just better? Keep at it; move to the next way you don’t show yourself compassion.

Remember that you are worth it!

Another vital part of self-compassion is your ability to see the things that you are good at. Focus on what you have accomplished and how you contribute every day to the world.

It is easy to try to look at the big things that we do and wait till we reach those goals to feel a sense of purpose.

The reality is that you can feel purposeful every day. Every time you show yourself or someone else kindness, love, or generosity, you are contributing to the world.

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Acknowledge what you do every day to contribute to the world.

Your inherent strengths and who you are as a person is on purpose. If you believe in a higher power, then you can acknowledge that you were made this way on purpose.

You are divinely created.

With this energy, write out what makes you unique, what your strengths are, and your gratitude for those aspects of yourself. As you look at what you already do and who you are, your self-compassion and self-esteem will improve.

We all have the ability to improve ourselves. The danger in focusing only on how we can be better is that we lose the focus on what we already have, and all that we are.

Focusing on what we do have is especially important as an empath. Since empaths feel emotions at a deeper level, you can feel the negative self-talk or the comparison at a deep level. The good news is that you can also feel good things deeply.

Don’t allow yourself to dim your own light. Acknowledge who you are and how you are created by the Divine on purpose.

Your empathy contributes to the world in a way that others can’t. I see you and I want to acknowledge that you are unique and amazing.

Improving your self-compassion may take some inner work. By looking at how you compare yourself to others, your self-talk, self-care, you as a Divine creation, and all that you accomplish, you can improve your self-compassion.

With improved self-compassion, imagine how much better you could feel every day? How would that impact your life?

Kavita Melwani is a certified empowerment coach, hypnotherapist, past-life regressionist, certified money marketing and soul coach, and a Reiki master. To schedule a clarity session, visit her website.

People who have greater levels of self-compassion tend to be more motivated, less lazy, and more successful over time. But just as important, they like themselves, even when they fall short. Psychologist Susan David explains how you can cultivate this quality.

One of the great myths of self-compassion is that it’s about lying to yourself. Or, that it’s about being weak or being lazy. Another myth is that it’s about pushing aside your difficult thoughts and saying, “Now I’m going to tell myself five positive things.”

That’s not self-compassion. When you are self-compassionate, you’re actually doing something very specific for yourself — you’re noticing difficult thoughts, showing up for them, and creating a sense of psychological safety for yourself.

You’re creating a space in which you feel able to take risks. If you beat yourself up whenever you fail or fall short, this naturally inhibits you from trying new things and taking chances. But when you’re self-compassionate, you know that even if you fail, you’ll still like yourself. In this way, self-compassion gives you the ability to experiment and explore, and to be courageous.

In research studies, people who have greater levels of self-compassion tend to be more motivated, less lazy, and more successful over time. They still recognize where they’ve gone wrong, but rather than getting caught up in blame and judgement, they can learn from the experience and adapt and change course for the next time.

So how can you cultivate self-compassion? Start by ending the tug-of-war inside yourself. In a research study that looked at more than 70,000 people, I found about one-third of the participants judged their normal experiences and emotions as being “good” or “bad”, “positive” or “negative”. When you evaluate your life in such a black-and-white way, you’re entering into an internal tug-of-war — you criticize yourself whenever you feel “bad” or “negative” emotions and whenever you don’t feel “good” or “positive” emotions.

To stop the tug-of-war, simply drop the rope. When we experience a challenging emotion like sadness or disappointment, many of us respond by telling ourselves: “This is bad; I shouldn’t be feeling this. Why can’t I be more positive. ” And then we follow up this judgement with more judgement — we berate ourselves for not being self-compassionate. Next time that happens, try saying to yourself, “I’m feeling sad. What is this sadness a signpost of? What is it pointing to that’s important to me? What is it teaching me?”

Think of your difficult emotions and thoughts as data. They can provide you with valuable information about who you are and what really matters. Self-compassion allows you to acknowledge and accept all of your feelings, even when they’re negative. For instance, you might notice that you’re feeling really frustrated at work. So ask yourself: “What is that frustration a signpost of? What is it telling me about what’s important to me?”

For one person, frustration might be a signpost that their voice isn’t being heard. For another person, that frustration might be a signpost that they’re not growing in their job. By asking questions about your uncomfortable emotions, you’re gaining a greater level of perspective about yourself and engaging your curiosity about who you are as a human being.

When you can get curious about your experiences, you’re 50 percent of the way to being self-compassionate. Because at that moment, you’re not judging yourself and your emotions. Instead, you’re looking at them and learning from them. You can also use this process to figure out the wisest action to take. Follow up your observations by asking yourself: “What could I do in this situation that would best serve me, my values and my goals?”

If you find yourself having trouble being self-compassionate, don’t beat yourself up. When you’re having a lack-of-self-compassion day, it’s really important to not criticize yourself. One thing that can help is to look at yourself from a different angle. We’ve all got a child version of ourselves who lives inside us.

Imagine if a child came to you and said, “No one wants to be with me” or “I’m feeling sad” or “I tried to do well in this project but I wasn’t successful,” would you punish them? Of course not. You’d put your arms around them, you’d love them, you’d listen to them, and you’d see them. Sometimes, as an adult when we lack self-compassion, it can help to connect with the child in you and find out what they need. So when you’re struggling to access self-compassion, ask: “I notice that I’m feeling X emotion. What is it that the child in me needs right now?”

Ultimately, self compassion is about recognizing what it means to be human. Discomfort, stress, disappointment, loss and pain are all part of the human journey. If we are not able to enter into a space of kindness to ourselves, we’re putting ourselves at odds with the reality of life. Another hallmark of humanity is imperfection: To be human is to be imperfect and to make mistakes. Self-compassion is a necessary part of our journey; it’s about recognizing that you are doing the best you can — with who you are, with what you’ve got, and with the resources that you’ve been given.

Watch Susan David’s TED Talk now:

Asha Elaine

I live in my truth. I define my freedom. I use storytelling as a way to connect with the world. Host of Wine About It the Podcast, streaming wherever you get your podcasts. IG: @ashaelaine

Asha Elaine

How to be kinder to yourself

2020 was a year that none of us will forget. The amount of hardship and chaos faced was discouraging for many, and enlightening for some. With most of the world shut down, new working norms, and a high amount of layoffs, many of us were forced to reset and reconsider our place in the world. Now that we have survived 2020, the lessons of last year have illustrated that time is of the essence, and that we should live our lives on our own terms – not within the constraints of a job or societal standards. We deserve kindness from others, but more importantly from ourselves. Whether or not you “began” 2021 on January 1st or made your second attempt during later months, you can still add these four ways to be more kind to yourself this year.

Embrace the Power in Saying “No” to Others

My therapist told me that whenever decisions have to be made, someone is always going to be told “no.” She then proceeded to gently tug at my edges and asked me, “which side of the no are you going to be on?” Learning to say no to what no longer serves you, or what you no longer have the capacity for, is a major step in personal growth and wellness. You can’t satisfy everyone and everything isn’t for you. Protect your peace, sis.

Take Yourself on Dates

It may seem scary and awkward to go on a date by yourself, but you deserve it! Whether it’s a picnic in the park, outdoor dining, or a massage, treat yourself. While I do love when others take me on dates, I’ve grown to appreciate trying new experiences by myself. It made me more comfortable in my solitude, which helped me become more in tune with myself. Taking myself on dates reminded me of how amazing I am and that I truly enjoy my own company.

Step Into the Light

You’re doing great, sweetie! Stop dimming your own light. When you feel doubt sneaking up, remind yourself of who you are and what you are capable of. Affirmations can be an important aspect of extending kindness to self. The expectation that we have to be the perfect friend, partner, employee, or parent prevents us from giving ourselves the credit we deserve. Hype yourself up, even for the seemingly small things. Stand in your spotlight and shine!

Don’t Forget to Rest

Listen to your body when it needs to rest or slow down. You aren’t a machine. I constantly remind myself that I cannot be my best for myself or others when I am running on E. Getting adequate rest and discovering ways to relax my mind and body has introduced me to a new level of peace. Don’t wear yourself out by trying to spread yourself too thin.

Being kind to yourself costs you nothing, but will help you gain everything. It is a habit worth forming and one you’ll never have to break.

Tips for practising positive self-talk.

How to be kinder to yourself

Kind self-talk is about more than warm fuzzies – it actually has some pretty powerful benefits.

Practising self-compassion can calm your heart rate and take you out of fight-or-flight mode. It also helps you build resilience and move forward from setbacks.

Here are some strategies for being kinder to yourself, about yourself.

Pay attention to your thoughts

Start with awareness. Observe your internal chatter. Is your self-talk kind or unkind? Understanding or judgmental? Gentle or harsh? Tune in to your inner voice and see if you can reframe unkind thoughts with more compassionate thinking.

Imagine you’re speaking to a friend

Put all self-talk through the ‘friend test’. Would you say those words to a friend or family member? If the answer is no, then don’t speak that way to yourself. Instead, think about how you would support a friend in the same situation.

Set yourself realistic expectations

Do your expectations align with reality? Or do you write ambitious to-do lists that five people would struggle to achieve? Try not to have a to-do list as long as your arm and then punish yourself if you don’t get everything done. Know what to let go of, understanding that it’s OK to let some things slide.

Celebrate all your small wins

Too often, we silence kind self-talk until we achieve a big goal. But how do you achieve something big? With hundreds – if not thousands – of small wins along the way. Every little step in the right direction is worth taking a moment to tell yourself that you’re doing great.

Try positive affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive phrases you say out loud to yourself, ideally in front of a mirror. Positive affirmations can sometimes (but not always) be helpful, depending on the topics and your headspace. Popular affirmations include “I am worthy”, “I am loved and loveable,” and “I see beauty in everything”.

Change your story

What stories do you tell yourself, about yourself? Pay attention to the stories that run through your mind. Try to rewrite every narrative from a place of compassion and kindness. You’re the only one who can write your inner thoughts, so you might as well make them wonderful.

How to be kinder to yourself
Image: / CC BY-SA 2.0

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Henry James

“Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

“Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Mother Teresa

This is a short guide to being a kinder person. It’s not always easy though and I focus on being more consistent rather than trying to be perfect.

But why even make the effort to be kinder? What’s the point? Why not just go about things as you usually do?

Three reasons pop up in my mind.

  • By being kinder to others you tend to be kinder towards yourself. Perhaps a bit counter intuitive but this has been my experience.
  • You get what you give. Yes, some people will be miserable and ungrateful no matter what you do for or to them. But most people will over time treat you as you treat them. Unfortunately, a lot of people will not take the first step. So if you want a change in your life you have to take responsibility for it and make those first moves. Sitting around waiting for someone else to do them could take the rest of your life.
  • It makes your world and the world all in all a nicer place to live in.

So that’s the why. Here is the how to.

  1. Be grateful for what you got. It’s very easy to take yourself, your life and the people around you for granted. Avoid that by using two minutes from time to time for reflecting on what you can be grateful for. Or write it down each day in a gratitude journal.
  2. Express it. Don’t hold in what you are grateful for. Say it. It may be that you are happy to have brought an umbrella on a rainy day. Or just a small thing such as saying thanks to someone for holding your books for a minute. But even such small expressions of gratitude can make your or someone else’s day better.
  3. Minimize judgments. No one likes to be judged. And the more you judge people the more you tend to judge yourself. So it’s a lose-lose situation.
  4. Take it easy with the criticism. Constructive criticism has its place. But too much of that or criticism that won’t help anyone just makes people feel and perform worse. Try encouraging them instead. It makes work and the people involved – including you – easier to deal with and more fun.
  5. Try to understand the other side. It’s easy to stick to your point of view. But you can gain powerful insights about the other person and yourself too by trying to understand their point of view. This also tends to decrease harshness and negativity and can make it easier to reach an understanding where both parties feel more satisfied with the solution.
  6. Make positive observations about people. This is pretty similar to being grateful for what you got but a habit I like to keep in mind and use. Replace the habit of spotting the things that annoy you about people with one where you make small or big positive observations about them. It could be their great sense of style when it comes to shoes, how they always make you laugh when you need it or simply that they are always on time. Be sure to tell them that.
  7. Remember the small and kind gestures. Let someone in into your lane while driving your car. And hold up the door for the next person.
  8. Remind yourself. It’s easy to forget. Use whiteboards, your cell phone, post-its and other reminders in your daily environment.
  9. Awash yourself in the positive memories of the times when you were kind. When you remind yourself how good it felt to be kind and how you helped someone out and made them feel good too it becomes easier and easier to stay kind instead of questioning the habit.
  10. Take the smarter and higher road. Don’t be someone the people can walk all over, set boundaries and say no when needed. But recognize that unnecessary conflicts just waste your time and energy. And that some people are so addicted to the drama and conflicts that you will never win or reach an understanding between the two of you. There are more fun and good things to spend time on in your life. So try to reach an understanding in a kind sort of way. But if it doesn’t work then remove yourself from getting drawn into their conflicts and make the day better for both you and possibly them.
  11. Be kind to yourself. It’s OK and something that a lot of people don’t do enough. And it seeps over into your world and how you treat others just like how being kind to others seeps back into how you treat yourself.

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We tend to think that we have to earn self-kindness. That is, in order to be kind to ourselves, we must meet certain conditions. We must not make mistakes. We must work out five times a week. No exceptions. We must keep a tidy, organized home. We must make “healthy” meals. We must check off everything on our to-do list. We must excel at work, and produce, produce, produce. We cannot fail. Under any circumstances.

And if we don’t meet these conditions, then we punish ourselves. We wake up earlier and earlier. We work longer hours. We don’t rest. We don’t take any time for ourselves. Because we’re convinced we don’t deserve it. We talk to ourselves in ways we’d never talk to others. Because we’re convinced we deserve it.

Being kind can be hard, especially when we’re angry with ourselves, especially when we feel disappointed due to something we did—or didn’t do.

Many of us have to teach ourselves how to be self-compassionate. It feels that foreign, that far away. And that’s OK. Because self-compassion is actually a skill we can sharpen—whether we’ve bashed ourselves for years or not. The more you practice, the more you act with kindness, the more natural it becomes.

In her beautiful book The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart & Your World, clinical psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Cousineau, Ph.D, shares an assortment of strategies to help us practice self-compassion—without any prerequisites (along with ways we can be kind to others). Below you’ll find four suggestions and insights from the book.

Speak sincere words of kindness. When creating your self-compassionate statements, be clear, be true to your experience and use a kind tone. For instance, when Cousineau was experiencing anxiety and self-doubt while writing her book, she came up with this statement: “I have a beautiful message to share with the world. I will speak my truth.”

She includes these other examples you might try: “Even though this feels hard, I will be gentle with myself”; “I’ve got this”; and “I will be OK.”

According to Cousineau, you can create your statement by asking yourself: “What do I need to feel calm in my body?” or “What do I yearn for from others?” When you find the right statements, you’ll know, because you’ll feel a wave of relief, inspiration or gratitude.

Savor touch. Touch signals our body’s soothing system, triggering positive feelings and a sense of safety, Cousineau writes. She suggests savoring sensations such as the warmth of a cup of tea; the water cascading down our skin during a shower; the softness of fleece. When you’re struggling, you can give yourself a hug, place your hand over your heart, or touch your face.

You also can figure out your optimal barometer for touch by considering these questions: Do you like to be touched or not really? Do you notice any changes in your mood, energy level and quality of your relationships related to the amount of touch you’ve received? In what situations do you desire touch, and in what situations do you avoid it? What things touch you emotionally?

Explore stress. Kindness is knowing ourselves, and tending to ourselves. One way we can do that is by exploring how stress affects us. Cousineau suggests this exercise: Think of a recent event that upset or stressed you out. Draw a stick figure or an outline of your body. Write or draw the sensations you experienced or are experiencing right now as you think of the event. Respond to these prompts, as well:

  • “If stress were a color, it would be…
  • The picture that comes to mind with the word ‘stress’ is …
  • My stress symptoms include …
  • I know I am stressed when I emotionally feel …
  • The very first sign of stress is …
  • When I’m stressed, my thinking becomes …
  • Others can tell when I am stressed because I ….”

Once you identify how stress manifests for you, you can identify what will genuinely help and support you.

Delve deeper. To develop a deeper understanding of ourselves, Cousineau suggests reflecting on these questions: “What is one thing I can do today that will stretch my heart a bit wider? What does a meaningful life mean to me? What would I regret not doing at least once in my life? What would I die for? What am I most proud of? What am I grateful for? What is one habit I want to break, and what is one habit I want to create? What does ‘god’ or ‘spirit’ mean to me? When was the last time I said ‘I love you’ to those I care about? To myself?”

We don’t need to wait to be kind until we’ve supposedly done something worthy of compassion. We can make kindness part of our everyday. We can speak kindly and gently to ourselves, especially when we’re struggling. I’m upset, and it’s totally understandable. I’m having a rough day. I can’t stop crying, and that’s OK. I need to feel this. We can get to know ourselves on a profound level. We can tend to our needs, especially when we’re stressed, especially when we don’t perform or produce, especially when we fail.

Cousineau defines kindness as “love in action.” How can you act lovingly toward yourself today?

How to silence your inner critic and gain mental strength.

How to be kinder to yourself

The private conversations you have with yourself can be either a powerful stepping-stone or a major obstacle to reaching your goals. If your inner monologue repeats things like, “I’m going to embarrass myself,” or, “No one is going to talk to me,” as you walk into a social gathering, you probably won’t appear relaxed and approachable. Or, if you’re thinking, “I’m never going to get this job,” in the middle of an interview, you’ll struggle to present yourself in a confident manner. Often, those negative predictions can quickly turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Your thoughts greatly influence how you feel and behave, which is why negative self-talk can be downright self-destructive. Telling yourself that you’ll never be successful, or that you aren’t as good as other people, will reduce your feelings of self-worth and deter you from facing your fears. Constantly putting yourself down and beating yourself up makes it impossible to be mentally strong.

If you tend to be overly critical of yourself, you’re not alone: Most people experience self-doubt and harsh self-reflections at one time or another. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a victim of your own verbal abuse. Instead, take steps to proactively address negative thoughts and launch a more productive dialog with yourself.

Here are seven ways to tame your inner critic:

1. Develop an awareness of your thoughts.

We get so used to hearing our own narrations that it’s easy to become oblivious to the messages we’re sending ourselves. Pay attention to what you’re thinking about and recognize that just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s true. Our thoughts are often exaggerated, biased, and disproportionate.

2. Stop ruminating.

When you make a mistake or you’ve had a bad day, you may be tempted to replay the events over and over in your head. But repeatedly reminding yourself of an embarrassing thing you did, or a questionable thing you said, will only make you feel worse—and it won’t solve the problem. When you find yourself ruminating—and not problem-solving—don’t waste time telling yourself, “Don’t think about that.” The more you try to avoid thinking about something, the more you’re likely to focus on it. Instead, distract yourself with an activity—going for a walk, organizing your desk, or talking about a completely different subject—and stop the critical thoughts before they spiral out of control.

3. Ask yourself what advice you’d give a friend.

If a friend expressed feelings of self-doubt, it’s unlikely you’d say, “You can’t ever do anything right,” or, “You’re so stupid. No one likes you.” Hopefully, you’d offer compassionate words of encouragement, like, “You made a mistake but it’s not the end of the world,” or “It’s unlikely that today’s performance will actually get you fired.” Treat yourself as kindly as you’d treat a friend, and apply those words of encouragement to your life.

4. Examine the evidence.

Learn to recognize when your critical thoughts are exaggeratedly negative. If you think, “I’m never going to be able to quit my job and run my own business,” examine the evidence that supports and refutes this prediction. Sometimes it’s helpful to write it down. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, list all the evidence that supports your thought. On the other, write down all the evidence to the contrary. Looking at evidence on both sides of the argument can help you look at a situation more rationally and less emotionally.

5. Replace overly critical thoughts with more accurate statements.

Convert an overly pessimistic thought to a more rational and realistic statement. When you find yourself thinking, “I never do anything right,” replace it with a balanced statement like, “Sometimes I do things really well and sometimes I don’t.” Each time you find yourself thinking an exaggeratedly negative thought, respond with the more accurate statement.

6. Consider how bad it would be if your thoughts were true.

Sometimes it’s tempting to envision a mishap turning into a complete catastrophe. But often, the worst-case scenario really isn’t as bad as we might imagine. For example, if you predict that you’re going to embarrass yourself when you give a presentation, ask yourself how bad would that actually be? If you did embarrass yourself, would you be able to recover, or do think it would end your career? Reminding yourself that you can handle tough times or problems increases your confidence and decreases the constant barrage of worrisome thoughts.

7. Balance acceptance with self-improvement.

There’s a difference between always telling yourself that you’re not good enough and reminding yourself that you can work to become better. Accept your flaws for what they are today, but resign to work on the issues you want to address. Although it sounds counterintuitive, you can do both at the same time. You can accept that you experience anxiety in social situations, while also making a decision to become more comfortable with public speaking. Accepting your weaknesses for what they are today doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. Acknowledge that you have flaws but determine to remain a work in progress as you strive to become better.

The Power of Your Inner Dialogue

While your inner critic can help you recognize areas where you want to improve, overly harsh negative self-talk will cause your performance to suffer and reduce the chances that you’ll reach your goals. Practice taming your inner critic and silencing the negativity so you can coach yourself in a productive and helpful manner. Learning how to have productive conversations with yourself is one of the best ways to develop mental strength.