Speaking kindly to yourself

Life is very different at the moment. We are all trying to manage in our different ways. One thing that can really make a difference is having good self-esteem – this helps us to be resilient and to cope better when life’s difficulties come our way. 

One way of improving our self-esteem is to think about how we speak to ourselves. 

Consider: When I make a mistake, do I tell myself “that’s okay, it happens” or am I self-critical, thinking I should have done better? 

If you notice that you’re harder on yourself than anyone else, or that you are constantly telling yourself that you have messed up or that you’re such an idiot, here are 4 ideas for changing your internal voice into a calmer, more supportive one. 

1. Talk to yourself like you would to a friend  

How would you talk to a friend who had lost a job, had a relationship break-up, or felt like they were a failure? Would you shout and be critical, tell them they were a failure and an embarrassment, or would you listen calmly, reassure and encourage them? One of my service users has recently been working on challenging her negative talk about herself.  She and some good friends have agreed together to point out whenever one of them has said something negative or self-critical about themselves.  The person then has to reflect on what they said, reconsider it and turn it into something more positive or encouraging.  Having supportive friends who are holding each other to account over this has really helped her to be more mindful of how she talks to herself, and she says after only a few weeks, speaking more kindly is becoming a habit and is already making a difference to how she feels about herself. 

2. Recognise your achievements 

We know how much it means to children to get a well-done sticker, award or certificate.  Well adults need recognition too! Find ways of recognising your own achievements, however small these may be.  It might be managing to get out of bed today; it could be helping a neighbour with their shopping, or just smiling at a stranger and making their day.  Some of my service users find making a list at the end of each day really helps, others have made themselves a reward chart and encouraged their children to notice something positive about their parent.  Try asking others, because they can often see far more good things about us than we can about ourselves!  Repeat these things back to yourself, using positive “I” phrases such as “I was kind today” “I worked hard today” “I achieved this today.”  It is likely to feel weird at first, but as you get more used to it, it can become more of a habit and you will find yourself gradually speaking more positively about yourself. 

3. Find an inspirational saying  

Focusing on a positive saying can be really calming when you find yourself spiralling into negative self-talk. Try to make it something short that you can remember easily. “I can do this” “I am good enough.”  Some service users post positive statements around the home where they will see them, or make the wallpaper on their phone of something that inspires them. Find what works for you. 

4. Don’t expect to be perfect 

Don’t compare yourself to others, and recognise that there can be lots of different ways to be “good enough”. 

For more information about ways to improve your self-esteem and look after your mental health see: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/looking-after-your-mental-health  

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