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Be Nice to Yourself

I often talk aloud to myself and sometimes it’s not very nice. “Oh you idiot”, “I can’t believe you did that”, or even “Come on – pick up your game”. According to research, this lack of self-compassion is definitely not helping my happiness and well-being.

Self-compassion is all about being kind and understanding towards yourself instead of judging and criticizing yourself for your inadequacies or mistakes. It’s a different kind of self-talk that feels a bit schizophrenic, as you need to get used to talking to yourself like a friend.  So instead of “You’re an idiot to forget the milk”, you’d say, “It’s been a busy day – no wonder you forgot the milk – it’s ok”.

Dr. Kristin Neff is an Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin, and she has a swag of research to show the benefits of self-compassion. Here are five of her reasons to start treating yourself like a good friend.

1.     You’ll be happier.

Just like when we help others, when we soothe our own pain and care for ourselves, our body releases oxytocin, which is our natural feel good drug.

2.    You’ll be more motivated

Many people are afraid to be self-compassionate because they fear going easy on themselves. However, the habit of self-criticism leads to fear of failure, which is hardly motivating. Best to allow yourself to see your faults, accept them and then have a go at altering them.

3.    You’ll have better mental health

There is increasing research to show those who display self-compassion are less anxious and stressed.

4.    It’s good for your heart

Self-criticism can trigger the fight or flight response in the body via adrenaline and increased blood pressure. By switching to self-compassion, you will be doing your heart a favour.

5.    You can heal your pain.

It’s a paradox but the more you accept your faults as part of being a human, the faster and better you can heal and bounce back. Beating yourself up just makes the pain last longer.

So we took it to the test with Miss Jane from our office who promised that for a week she would catch herself self-criticising, and swap this for self-compassion. The findings? She had no idea just how much this had become a habit and caught herself many times. Switching to a more self-compassionate attitude did reduce stress and tension – now she needs to keep it up!


Dr. Neff has written a book on the subject and has a useful website. Visit:


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