Would you talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself?

Most people would NEVER do that.

And yet, we tell ourselves self-critical thoughts all day long.

Most of us (especially my fellow Type A perfectionists) think that if we’re too nice to ourselves, we won’t have any discipline and we’ll just sit on the couch all day being lazy.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s really hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and go to the gym (or pay off debt or be more patient with your kids… or go after whatever goal you’d like to achieve) when you’re beating the crap out of yourself all day every day.

When we’re feeling emotions like shame or self-loathing, all we want to do is eat chocolate and binge watch Netflix (or drink a bottle of wine…or scroll mindlessly on Instagram… or whatever your particular vice of choice is).

Okay, you might be thinking… if being nice to myself will actually help me achieve my goals and being mean to myself isn’t going to benefit anyone, how do I start being nicer to myself?

It took me years to figure this out.

I used to be my own worst enemy.  My brain was filled with self-critical thoughts all day every day.  Nothing was ever good enough.

I’m happy to say that I hardly ever think self-critical thoughts anymore.  I now have a pretty good relationship with myself, and it’s because I learned how to change my thoughts.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version.

Do not try to resist negative thoughts or try to push them away. Eckart Tolle says, “What you resist will persist.”

Resisting thoughts make them stronger.  When your resist your thoughts, it creates a stress response in your body.  Your brain thinks stress is important to pay attention to (for survival purposes), so your mind will continually go back to thoughts that trigger stress.

Research shows that your brain will always go back to the thoughts that causes the strongest emotions.

The more you resist certain thoughts, the more your brain will learn to associate those thoughts with stress, and the more frequently your brain will go back to those thoughts.

So if I can’t just push away the negative thoughts that my brain offers me all day long, how am I ever going to learn to start being nicer to myself?

The answer is to talk back to your brain more than you listen to it.

Your brain, on default, will offer you negative and self-critical thoughts.  You can respond to these thoughts intentionally with thoughts that are more loving and compassionate.

Over time, new neural pathways will form in your brain.  On default, your brain will start thinking the self-compassionate thoughts more often and the self-critical thoughts will come up less and less.

I’ve experienced this firsthand.

Here are a bunch of examples of what I mean by responding to “default” negative thoughts with compassionate, intentional thoughts.

Default thought: Why did I say that? What is wrong with me?
Intentional response: Nothing is wrong with me. I am just a human who has some unhelpful thought patterns (which lead me to take unhelpful actions). I can take a look at my thoughts and learn to change them.

Default thought: I’m a failure.
Intentional response: Everyone messes up sometimes. I love me anyway.

Default thought: I’m so nervous about this presentation. I’m going to look like an idiot.
Intentional response: No matter what happens, I’m proud of myself for doing something that scares me.

Default thought: I suck at everything.
Intentional response: Like all humans, I am half amazing and half mess… and that’s okay.

Default thought: I’m not cut out for this.
Intentional response: I can do hard things…and no matter what happens, I’m proud of myself for trying.

Default thought: I shouldn’t be anxious about this. It’s not even that big of a deal. This is so stupid.
Intentional response: It’s okay to feel anxious. I know how to do anxiety.

I hope these examples help you to see exactly HOW you can learn to be nicer to yourself.

Changing your thoughts is not something that happens overnight.

It will take practice.

Don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up!

When you notice yourself thinking self-critical thoughts, respond with compassion.

You’re doing the best you can.

You’re amazing.

Be gentle with yourself.