Speaking Kindly to Yourself

A while back I stumbled across a very interesting study on self compassion performed by researchers at Duke University, Wake Forest University, and Louisiana University. Some of the main takeaways from the study were that (I am paraphrasing here):

-People who were self compassionate tended to be more optimistic and had a tendency not to believe that their problems were worse than other people’s problems.
-A person with a high level of self compassion experiences feeling of kindness towards oneself, and takes on a nonjudgmental attitude towards their own inadequacies and failures, recognizing that experiencing those failures is normal.
-People who were self compassionate had less sadness, anxiety, and negative feelings.

I found this study so interesting and feellike it parallels so many of the things I have written about on my blog. I have shared with you guys my own personal story of how when I was younger I did not have much self confidence, or what I consider to be ‘true’ self confidence. Others probably thought I was confident, and I was outgoing, but the way I spoke to myself was not very kind. It took years for me to build up my own self confidence and what I now know is also self compassion. I started with super small, micro goals, and I wrote them down. Part of my problem was that I was always telling people I was going to do these huge things and I never would be able to get it done. Finally I got to the point where I realized that wasn’t working for me. People were seeing me as someone who talked a big game but didn’t follow up and my own self confidence was chipping away because I never could do what I said I was going to do. One day, I just decided I was going to change. I started by creating tiny goals. Things as small as: I am going to go for a 5 minute walk today. I am going to go to bed by 10:30. I am going to make it to all my appointments/classes on time (I was in college when this started). I am only going to take on projects I know with 100% confidence I can complete. And I wrote every single micro goal down.

In hindsight, it is pretty cool to see how things changed, although at the time I didn’t realize how my own self confidence was truly changing. Each time I hit one of my micro goals, I put a big, giant check mark next to the goal. Sometimes I would set the same goal again, and sometimes I would make my next goal just a tiny bit harder. Each time I set a goal, I would write it down on my whiteboard and put a huge check mark next to it when I accomplished it. Slowly but surely, I was building my own self confidence and I started speaking more kindly to myself. I was proving to myself that I actually could say I was going to do something and then actually do it. I didn’t have to be the person who ‘talked a big game’ anymore, because I was setting realistic limits. Instead of feeling like a failure all the time, I started to really feel proud of myself. Of course I had plenty of failures along the way, but I was proving to myself that you could fail with realistic goals that were eventually achievable, instead of failing in pursuit of an unrealistic goal.

Does this sound familiar to you at all? Can you relate to that? Have you ever said you were going to start going to the gym or start eating healthier, only to not follow through and then feel like a failure? I’ve been there too. Here is the advice I would give you. Start small. Super small. Instead of saying you are going to make it to the gym six days a week, start with one day a week. Or if one day a week is unrealistic, start with a family walk at night to the stop sign at the end of the road and back. When you start small, as you achieve those goals, it builds your confidence and creates an excitement and a snowball effect where you want to achieve the next goal. Instead of saying you are going to eat six small meals a day, start with just drinking enough water. Aim for eight glasses of water. Once you have that down then you can tackle the next step. You can change the conversation in your head from, “I suck, I am such a failure” to “I am so proud of myself for achieving that goal”.

Your friend,