Being gentle with yourself is not always easy, especially in today’s world where self criticism is often associated with motivation.
I was certainly guilty of this. For years, I have always believed that being my own harshest critic would push me to achieve more and excel in more aspects of my life. I criticized myself for even the smallest mistake, thinking that doing this would help me improve and prevent me from committing the same mistake.
But in reality, this constant internal berating only caused me so much more stress and anxiety. Not only did it diminish my confidence and self worth but it also made me extremely unhappy and emotionally and mentally drained.
It made me start questioning my capabilities and every time I would go through difficult times, these doubts only amplified. Instead of actually taking action and finding solutions to my problems, I was just stuck in constant cycle of negative self talk that paralyzed me and prevented me from moving forward.
If you’re guilty of doing this too, please know that you deserve to give yourself the same amount of love, understanding, and kindness that you so freely give to your loved ones. You have to stop beating yourself up and start being gentle with yourself.
I know that doing this is so much easier said than done. It’s going to take some time and patience to finally break free from these patterns of self-criticism and replace them with self compassion. It may not be easy but it is possible.
And thankfully, there are steps that we can take to help us with this journey. In this post, I will be sharing with you the steps I took that have significantly helped me. I’m hoping that some of these steps will resonate with you and help you start being gentle with yourself too.
How To Be Gentle With Yourself
1. Allow Yourself To Express Emotions
I’ve always struggled with being vulnerable. My first instinct was to always run away from what I was feeling and bottle them up, instead of actually facing them head-on. I would keep pretending to everyone around me, even to myself, that I was perfectly okay.
Honestly at that time, I believed that this was the best thing to do. I thought that if I wanted to achieve all my goals, I should focus all my attention and energy on them and not let anything get to me. I thought that allowing myself to feel my emotions would only become a distraction and hinder my progress. I thought that it would make me look weak.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Bottling up all my emotions only led them to build up inside me. This unacknowledged emotional weight became too heavy to carry that it started to affect not just my mental health but also my physical well being and relationships.
Running away from what I was feeling was not only keeping me from truly healing but it was also keeping me so miserable and unhappy. I’ve learned that giving ourselves a safe space to feel all our emotions is an act of kindness toward ourselves.
Doing this does not only help reduce the stress and anxiety that those suppressed emotions can bring but this also allows us to finally set ourselves free from that burden that we have been carrying with us for so long. We are finally giving ourselves a chance to truly heal, grow, and move forward.
Please know that allowing ourselves to feel is never a sign of weakness or defeat. Now, I honestly believe that doing this is a sign of great strength and courage.
2. Let Go Of Perfectionism
Letting go of perfectionism is a crucial step in learning how to be gentle with yourself. I used to wear perfectionism like it was a badge of honor.
I was taught at a young age that failure was not an option and that every setback and mistake was a direct reflection of my capabilities and worth. I carried this belief with me and as I got older, I realized that society seems to agree with the same sentiment.
Everyone praised flawlessness and those who never seem to stumble. This only magnified my need to be “perfect” and let me tell you, living that kind of life was not only daunting and mentally draining but it was also making me so unhappy. This relentless pursuit of perfection was just too overwhelming and paralyzing.
I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve said no to opportunities that I really wanted because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do them perfectly. If you feel the same way too, please know your worth and value are never tied to your achievements or never failing. You are so much more than the sum of your successes and failures.
I’ve learned that life is not about always getting things right, it is about having the courage to keep going and to keep trying even when things don’t go as planned. Honestly, now I believe that perfection is nothing but an illusion. Human as we are, we are all bound to make mistakes, fail, and stumble but that doesn’t mean that we are failures.
It simply means that we are learning, growing, and evolving. It’s time to stop aiming for perfection and start aiming for growth, learning and genuine happiness.
Please don’t hesitate to be kind to yourself and remember that as long as you’re trying, as long as you keep going and do your best, that is more than enough.
3. Let Go Of Self Criticisms
Most of us are guilty of being our own harshest critics. I know I certainly am. I have always assumed that by constantly scrutinizing my actions, decisions, and even thoughts, I would prevent myself from failing and making mistakes and ensure that I’m constantly on the right path.
I thought that constantly criticizing every aspect of my life would push me toward perfection and success. It took a real wake-up call for me to realize that this toxic habit was not only making me so unhappy but it was also diminishing my self worth and confidence.
Instead of motivating me, it actually made me start questioning my capabilities and believing that maybe I was never good enough.
The reality is constant self criticism will only lead us to a never-ending cycle of negativity and self doubt. Instead of fueling our motivation, it is only actually holding us back.
If you’re guilty of this too, please know that you deserve to give yourself the same amount of love, kindness, and understanding that you so freely give to others.
Offering ourselves self compassion, especially when life feels overwhelming is not being self indulgent or weak. It is about acknowledging that we are doing our best in the given circumstances and understanding that it’s okay to stumble, make mistakes, and fail.
It is about recognizing our shortcomings and meeting them with compassion instead of judgment. Please know that you don’t have to be overly critical of yourself to achieve growth and success. I actually learned that approaching ourselves with kindness can be more motivating.
So, the next time that you find yourself criticizing every little thing that you do, take a moment to pause and remind yourself that you are human and imperfection is part of the human experience. Allow yourself the chance to reflect on the situation with a kinder, more understanding perspective.
Learn how to start loving yourself more by taking this 30 day self love challenge.
4. Set Realistic Expectations And Goals
When I was struggling in life, I wanted to turn my life around as quickly as possible. So, I set all these unrealistic expectations and goals for myself believing that doing this would push me to work even harder and to be more motivated and determined.
But what it did was the exact opposite. Instead of actually motivating me, it just made everything more overwhelming and daunting to the point that it kept me from actually doing anything.
I know that most of us want to achieve great things and make significant changes, but setting goals and expectations that are too unrealistic can often be counterproductive.
Instead of actually fueling our motivation and drive, they are only fueling our anxiety and stress. I’ve realized how crucial it is to be kind to ourselves, especially when we are setting goals. We have to remind ourselves that setting realistic expectations and goals doesn’t mean that we are not aiming high.
It is about finding the balance between what we want to achieve and what we can realistically accomplish given our current resources, time, and circumstances.
There is nothing wrong with allowing ourselves to take small and manageable steps. Start by recognizing and accepting your current circumstances and plan your goals around them.
This certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t dream big. I’ve learned that it’s actually about approaching those big dreams with a practical and realistic plan, one that’ll set us up for success and not burnout, overwhelm, and disappointment.
We have to remember that success is not only about taking all those huge leaps, often it’s the small steps that we choose to take every single day, even during those hard days, that truly count.
5. Acknowledge Your Effort
It’s easy to take our efforts for granted and only focus our attention on everything that we are doing wrong, especially when we are overwhelmed by so many challenges and setbacks.
When I hit rock bottom, I was so consumed by my failures that I couldn’t see the progress I’d made. It felt like I was fighting a battle that I could never seem to win regardless of how hard I tried.
If you’re also feeling this way now, please know that every step that you choose to take, no matter how small, is still progress. Even in failure, there is still growth and learning. Please don’t ever hesitate to give yourself a huge pat on the back.
I know how difficult and overwhelming life can sometimes be and yet here you are, you’re still going, you are still fighting, that alone is a testament to your strength and resilience.
Every time you feel like criticizing or doubting yourself, please take a moment to pause and reflect on all that you’ve endured and overcome.
Remember, you are doing a wonderful job. Don’t ever forget to honor your strength, courage, and every step that you choose to take even in your darkest days. Please know that every decision that you make to keep moving forward is a significant act of change.
I know that it’s easy to focus on your mistakes and failures and feel like you are not doing enough, but the truth is, you are doing more than enough. Please always remember that.
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6. Don’t Hesitate To Ask For Help
I’ve learned that being gentle with yourself also means acknowledging when we need support and having the strength to reach out and ask for it. I’ve always had a difficult time asking for help.
Even when I was navigating one of the lowest points of my life, I felt like since this was my problem then I should be the only one to fix this. I didn’t want to burden anybody else with what I was going through and I felt like I had to prove to myself that I was strong enough to handle it on my own.
So, I kept putting on this facade, pretending that I was perfectly okay. When in reality, I was struggling so deeply. It wasn’t until I reached my breaking point that I finally realized to be kind to myself and to acknowledge that it’s okay to ask for help.
If you’re also struggling with this, please know that you will never be a burden to those people who truly love you. The people who truly love you will be there to listen and support you in any way that they can. In fact, they will greatly appreciate the trust that you have placed in them for opening up.
I know that for most of us, asking for help is not our first instinct, especially in today’s world, where self reliance and independence are so highly valued.
But one of the lessons I’ve learned from digging myself out of rock bottom is that it’s important for us to remember that being independent doesn’t mean having to face everything alone.
It’s about knowing when to handle things yourself and when to lean on others for support. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean that we are giving up. Every person needs help at some point in their lives, and it’s more than okay for that person to be you right now.
Life can be challenging sometimes and we all need someone to be there in our corner and help us navigate these difficult times. So please, don’t hesitate to reach out.
7. Make Time For Self Care
For years, I have always seen self care as a complete waste of time. I know that it’s easy to make time for it when everything in our lives is going smoothly but when life gets hard, and you’re just trying to get through every single day, making time for self care is certainly not even on our minds.
This is exactly what I felt. When I was embracing difficult changes in my life, self care was not even on my to-do list. I wanted to focus all my attention and energy on everything that I had to do to make this transition even a little less painful and overwhelming.
I wanted to focus on everything that could possibly help me navigate this challenging season of my life.
It was during this period that I realized that self care is not just about taking a break or pampering ourselves. It’s so much more than that. It’s about building the mindset, resilience, and strength that we need to handle life’s challenges.
By ignoring self care, I was only making things more difficult for me. By relentlessly pushing myself without taking the time to recharge and reflect, I was running on empty.
If you also feel guilty making time for yourself and think that it’s a waste of time, please know that self care is not selfish. It’s a necessity. It is about recognizing your limitations, when you need a break and offering yourself enough kindness to pause and recuperate.
Please remember that just like anybody else, you also have needs that you need to honor and acknowledge.
Please don’t ever feel guilty for prioritizing your needs and taking care of yourself. Don’t hesitate to give yourself permission to make time for self care, especially when you’re going through difficult times, as these are the moments when you need it the most.
8. Set Boundaries
Are you also guilty of constantly stretching yourself thin trying to please everyone around you? How many times have you pushed yourself, regardless of how exhausted you already felt, just to accommodate others’ needs and expectations?
I couldn’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve done this. You see growing up, I was told that my worth and value were tied to my achievements and to how much I could do for others. I took this belief with me as I got older and I have always believed that for me to be enough, I had to make myself indispensable to other people.
But let me tell you, living that kind of life was not only mentally exhausting and emotionally draining but it was also making me so miserable and unhappy.
I was always stressed, constantly worrying about failing to meet others’ demands and expectations or letting someone down. It felt like I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of trying to prove my worth by over extending myself.
If you feel the same way too, I want you to know that true self worth comes from within, not from external validation. Your value is not solely determined by how much you do for others. You are worthy and deserving of care and attention, just as you are.
We have to remind ourselves that learning to set healthy boundaries doesn’t mean that we are being unkind. It’s not about shutting other people out entirely. It is about recognizing and respecting our own limits and needs.
It’s about finding a balance where we can be helpful and available to others, while also ensuring that we are not neglecting our own well-being.
Please remember that you are not being unkind by prioritizing your well-being. you are simply taking the necessary steps to ensure that you can be your best self, for yourself, and for others.
9. Nurture Positive Relationships
Nurturing positive relationships is a vital step in helping you learn to be gentle with yourself. These relationships are the ones where you feel valued and respected for who you are and not just for what you can provide or do for others.
They are the ones who provide you with a safe space to express your feelings and thoughts without fear or judgment. They offer a space where you can be vulnerable, share your struggles and still feel accepted and loved.
This kind of support is crucial in helping us learn to be kind and compassionate towards ourselves.
I’ve realized that by surrounding ourselves with these people, they can help us see that our value and worth go beyond our achievements or productivity. They help remind us of our worth, especially in moments when we doubt ourselves.
Nurture these kinds of relationships. Don’t forget to let them know how grateful and blessed you are to have them in your lives.
10. Practice Forgiveness
I know that often practicing forgiveness is not easy. I certainly believe that it’s easier said than done but one of the kindest things that you can do for yourself is to learn to forgive.
For years, I have held on to so much resentment and anger. You see, growing up, I was deeply hurt by the people who were supposed to make me feel loved and safe. I was constantly made to believe that I was nothing and that I constantly had to earn other people’s love and affection.
They constantly made me feel small, someone who never amounted to anything and someone who was never enough.
I carried so much resentment for them and I’ve held on to that resentment for years. I thought that as long as I was holding on to that anger, I was protecting myself from being hurt again. But the thing is, allowing myself to hold on to that anger, resentment, and bitterness only weighed me down.
I realized that by holding on to these negative feelings, I was still giving them power over me, power they don’t deserve.
One of the best lessons that I’ve learned and that I always take with me is remembering that forgiveness is not about minimizing the wrongs that they have done or invalidating the pain that they have caused you.
It is about choosing to set yourself free from the pain of the past, releasing yourself from the burden of an angry heart, and giving yourself the peace that you deserve.
Know that you deserve to create a life that is not overshadowed by past hurts. I know that doing this is not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s certainly not a straightforward process.
There were so many days when I felt like the old feelings of anger and resentment would resurface but with each act of forgiveness that we choose to offer, no matter how small, those feelings lose their grip.
Also, I know that often one of the most difficult people that we can offer forgiveness to is ourselves. I know that we can be our own harshest critics and we tend to punish ourselves for past mistakes over and over again.
If you’re guilty of this, please know that as human as we are, we are all bound to make mistakes and stumble, and you are no exception.
But that certainly doesn’t mean that you are no longer worthy of love, kindness, and second chances. Forgiving ourselves is certainly not about excusing our actions of the past, instead, it is about acknowledging them, learning from them, and then allowing ourselves to move beyond them.
It’s about understanding that our worth isn’t tied to our mistakes but to how we grow from them. Please know that you are more than your worst moments.
You are a work in progress, deserving of love and happiness, just like anyone else.
Here’s a great post that’ll help you learn how to practice forgiveness from Psych Central.
Please know that learning how to be gentle with yourself is not going to be a straightforward process. Please offer yourself patience and understanding. Know that growth and healing are going to take time.
Celebrate even your smallest victories and forgive yourself for any setbacks. Remember that your journey towards being gentle with yourself and self compassion is deeply personal and unique. So, please don’t hesitate to only use the steps that really resonate with you.
I know that it’s not easy offering ourselves self compassion, especially if it has already been so ingrained in us that self criticisms and harshness is the only way to push ourselves and achieve great success. But please know that being gentle with yourself is not about lowering your standards or giving up on your goals.
It is about approaching your ambitions with a kinder and more supporting heart. Please know that you deserve kindness and understanding from yourself as much as you do from others. Always remember that you are worthy of your own kindness.
Please know that I’m always rooting for you!