Are you too hard on you?
Experts reveal the secret to transforming self-criticism into self-kindness so you can face down challenges with happiness and confidence
From comforting words to bear hugs to encouraging text messages, you’re quick to shower others with support when they feel less than perfect. But cut to painful moments when you feel embarrassed or flawed: You hold back those very same gifts of love and acceptance. What gives?
“Society says women should be selfsacrificing and focused on helping others,” says Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author of Self-Compassion. “We grow up thinking self-kindness will make us selfish, but there’s a whole body of research showing these misgivings are untrue.” Neff cites studies in which parents of kids with autism, people going through a divorce and veterans returning from war had greater self-esteem and resilience when they used self-encouragement rather than judging or isolating themselves.
“It seems obvious, yet we still somehow believe we’re better off skipping the support and cutting ourselves down,” says Neff. But doing so not only harms us, it has ripple effects on loved ones: In her research, partners rated self-compassionate mates as more giving, caring and patient than those who skimped on self-care. Why? “If you can recharge your own battery, you have more—not less—to give.”
Luckily, Neff says once you shift to kinder self-talk, positive results follow: “I’ve been surprised at how drastically behavior can change almost immediately after people start being their own ally.” Read on for the strategies for cultivating the self-generosity you deserve.