I’m going to mess up.
I’m so stupid.
I’m a failure.
I did well that time, but anyone could have.
Does this kind of self-talk sound familiar?
In a world where we expect so much from ourselves, it’s easy to fall into a trap of not feeling good enough. The way we talk to ourselves when we fail to meet our or someone else’s expectations is important. In these situations, it makes a huge difference whether we provide some comfort, kindness, and encouragement to ourselves, or we turn to self-criticism. Unfortunately, too often, we choose the latter.
Where Does All This Self-Criticism Come From?
Self-criticism is an inner voice that takes a derogative stance when we don’t meet our expectations. It includes negative judgments of your abilities, physical appearance, intelligence, behaviour, even thoughts and feelings.
Rigidly demanding parents, teachers, culture or religion, unhealthy relationships, or friendships that undermined our confidence can all be the root of our self-criticism.
When we are young, we soak everything from our environment like a sponge; we learn about the world, about ourselves and other people from everything we see or hear. The messages important people in our lives send are crucial in shaping what we will believe and how we will behave. For example, if your parents had incredibly high expectations and harshly criticized you for every small mistake, their words may become an integral part of your inner voice, translated into self-judgment. They probably had good intentions – they wanted you to build working habits, to do well in school, to strive for achievement, and minimize mistakes, because they believed this would help you succeed in life and be happy.
This kind of self-talk was probably helpful to you at some point – in order to avoid punishment (both external, such as, for example, being forbidden to go out or watch TV for a month, and internal, which is more powerful – experiencing guilt and shame from failing to meet someone’s expectations), you did well, you achieved great things, and you derived a sense of pleasure from that.
So, not only that self-criticism became an integral part of how you talk to yourself earlier in life, but it’s also kept and strengthened because you may believe it’s a useful strategy. However, as you may realize now as an adult, although self-criticism may seem like it can serve certain functions, it can be psychologically devastating.
How To Tame Your Inner Critic (And Why It’s So Important)
Self-criticism is like living with a bully. That scolding voice that’s giving you a hard time over small things, always looking over your shoulder and keeping inventory of your mistakes, can seriously hold you back in reaching your goals and undermine how you feel about yourself. Self-criticism brings an overriding sense of not being good enough, can keep us from thinking realistically and from being present in our lives, and can contribute to feeling anxious or depressed.
By criticizing ourselves, we focus on our (many times non-existent, or at least exaggerated) weaknesses, or think irrationally. This moves us away from constructive evaluation and inhibits our capacity to be fully present and rationally and actively engage in our lives. Instead, we get so preoccupied with shame, guilt, and frustration that we may make even more mistakes and feel awful about ourselves.
An important thing is – you don’t have to be the victim of your harsh inner voice. Your thoughts have a powerful impact on how you feel and behave.
So how to be more friendly toward yourself when times are challenging? Here are a few tips and techniques.
1. Actively notice and challenge your inner critic
Sometimes, the little voice that puts us down is so embedded in our daily inner monologue that we don’t even notice how harsh it is. What we can do is to pay attention to what the voice is saying but not giving it the power over us. We can commit to notice it and treat it as someone who is unnecessarily rude or annoying, and actively stand up for ourselves, showing it how to be more kind.
Conquering that unrealistic, overexaggerating, harsh inner talk and replacing it with a soothing voice that is not only gentler and kinder, but also more realistic, is possible and more than beneficial. But it’s not easy. Proactively changing the way you talk to yourself may not feel natural immediately. And it’s okay – you are used to one way of thinking and it takes time to rewire your brain and create new pathways. The key is to catch yourself in those unrealistic and extreme statements and not let yourself get away with them.
You’re not good enough. – I don’t need to be perfect to be enough and loveable.
You’re so dumb – Whoops, I made a mistake. Let’s see how I can do better next time.
No one likes you – I don’t need to please everyone all of the time.
You will never make it. – This is really hard, but I believe in myself.
You never get anything right. – I haven’t figured it out yet. Learning is part of the process.
2. Develop a compassionate relationship with yourself
Self-compassion is a way of treating yourself with acceptance and understanding whether or not you behave intelligently, competently, or correctly. It’s having a friendly attitude and sending a message to ourselves: “I see you with your strengths and flaws and it’s okay, I accept the whole of you”.
This is a new concept for many people; it’s different from what we are used to. Thus, there are some misconceptions about it. Some people are afraid that, by being kind to themselves and refusing to engage in self-criticism, they will become lazy or self-indulgent. Others see it as a weakness, something that will stay in the way of their progress. We debunked some of these myths HERE, and provided some tips for practicing self-compassion, so you might want to take a look.
Like a good coach, self-compassion motivates us through love, kindness, and support. This helps us focus less on dwelling on our mistakes, and more on the present moment and moving forward. It is the opposite of self-criticism, which induces guilt and shame. On the surface, self-criticism can seem like it helps to motivate us to change, but in reality, it’s an inefficient motivator. First, because there is a high price to pay for it. And second, because self-criticism might keep us where we are for longer because we may be reluctant to admit our shortcomings, afraid of the overwhelming feeling of not being good enough if we do. In contrast, self-compassion provides us with emotional safety to see ourselves realistically and, from there, acknowledge our mistakes and try to do better.
3. What would you tell to your best friend?
Would you talk to your good friend the way you talk to yourself? When times are challenging and we feel bad, when we are dealing with failure or loss, the last thing we need is to be criticized. Instead, we need someone to help us see things from a realistic perspective and offer support, guidance, and reassurance.
You can be that friend to yourself. Thus, acknowledge your good qualities and abilities, make an effort to appreciate your uniqueness more, and offer caring and gentle words to yourself.
RAIN Technique for Dealing With Difficult Emotions
Sometimes, shame and guilt that come from self-criticism in situations when we make a mistake or fail at something, can be overwhelming for us. So overwhelming, that it becomes difficult to concentrate on anything else, or move away from self-loathing and self-judgment. What we need the most in these situations is something to help us ease the emotional chaos first, and then slowly start overcoming these intense feelings.
In these moments, the RAIN technique can be helpful. It’s a mindfulness technique used to soften and de-channel negative thoughts and provide a soothing balm for emotional pain. It can help you be your best friend instead of your own worst critic.
Take a step back and observe your thoughts and feelings. Be honest and acknowledge what you are feeling without trying to sweep it under the rug. Naming can also help, for example: “I feel worried right now” or “I feel so embarrassed for asking that question”.
“How am I feeling? Where do I feel it in my body?”
Step 2: ALLOW life to be just as it is
Accept that those thoughts and feelings are there, as part of your reality. No denial, no trying to remove or change them, no mental resistance. Just simply let them be there. This doesn’t mean you like them; it just means you are brave enough to face the reality within you.
“These thoughts and feelings are here. I can accept that, even if I don’t like it.”
Step 3: INVESTIGATE with kindness
Like a curious scientist, try to approach your state with interest and without judgment. You can investigate possible reasons you may be feeling this way, or ask if these feelings and thoughts are useful or in line with reality. Simply pause to ask questions so you can better understand what is happening.⠀
○ When did this feeling start?⠀
○ What triggered it?⠀
○ Have I felt this way before?⠀
○ What is this feeling trying to tell me?⠀
○ How realistic is my thinking?⠀
○ Is it helpful?⠀
○ What do I need right now?⠀
○ What can I do to support myself?
When you have an intense emotion, it can feel like it is the only part of you that matters at that moment. But you are not your thoughts and emotions. They come and go, and you can watch them like clouds flowing by. You are YOU, unique and complex, and this is just one of the countless experiences you had and will have.
You can use this technique to ground yourself and not feel consumed by negativity when everything seems just too much. However, we are all different which means that the same things don’t work for everyone or in every situation.
How do you deal with self-criticism? Will you apply some of these tips to your daily life? Let us know how it goes!
And be free to share this blog post with your friends and family on social media.
Interested in learning more about coaching or therapy? Contact us today.
Aronfreed, J. (1964). The origin of self-criticism. Psychological Review, 71(3), 193.
Neff, K & Germer, C. (2019) Kind to me. Excerpt in Mindful, 6 (6).
Powers, T. A., Koestner, R., & Zuroff, D. C. (2007). Self–criticism, goal motivation, and goal progress. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26(7), 826-840.
Brach, T. Working With Difficulties: The Blessings of RAIN. Tara Brach. Online HERE
“Everything happens for a reason”
“It could be worse”
“Delete the negativity”
“Just don’t think about it”
“Never give up!”
You’ve certainly said or heard some of these phrases before. It’s fairly common, and people who say them usually have good intentions – they are just trying to help somebody feel better. However, as you probably know if you heard some of them while you were going through difficult times, they don’t work. In fact, they can sometimes make you feel even worse, right?
But why is that? How can too much positivity possibly be a bad thing?
When Positivity Becomes Toxic
Keeping a positive attitude during stressful times can be incredibly helpful. It can help us cope with the situation, feel hope, and keep working toward a solution. However, being positive and optimistic doesn’t mean we won’t ever feel unpleasant emotions. Having a positive attitude is a good thing. Pushing positivity to the detriment of your authentic emotions is not.
Toxic positivity is an idea that we should focus only on positive emotions and positive aspects of life. It’s an attitude that being positive, and only positive, is the right way to live your life. This implies that any unpleasant emotions are considered as negative, and should be avoided.
It would be great if it was possible to feel good all the time. However, not only that it is not, but it can be even harmful to us and the people around us. Rigid and intense as it is, toxic positivity doesn’t leave space for experiencing all human emotions and being authentic. Instead, it encourages the person to remain silent about their struggles.
Toxic Positivity Can Be Harmful To You And Your Relationships
We have all kinds of emotions. Emotions are messengers. When instead of listening to ourselves and allowing ourselves to feel, even (and especially!) when these feelings are not comfortable, we fight and resist them — we create tension in our body. Different studies show us that hiding or denying feelings, oh the irony, makes them bigger and increases stress.
Our unpleasant emotions show us where we need some gentleness and compassion. They inform us that something is not right, not necessarily in our surroundings, but in the way we see the situation as well. They encourage us to pay attention to the parts of ourselves that need healing or the places in our paths where we need to take a turn. By suppressing or avoiding some emotions, we don’t allow ourselves to fully express and be honest. The result is denial, minimization, and invalidation of authentic emotional experience. When we go into hiding like that, we deny our truth. And the real truth is – life can be tough sometimes.
Toxic positivity can be harmful to your relationships too. When somebody is sad, anxious, fearful, what they need is support and understanding. Generic positive phrases can, although unintendedly, send the message: “You are not allowed to feel this way. Stop. It’s not okay to not be okay.” This is not helpful; it can make the person feel guilty or unheard. To them, it can sound like their emotions are not valid and important, and that they are wrong to feel the way they feel.
How To Support Someone Without Being “Too Positive”?
Feeling connected to and heard by others is one of the most important contributors to good mental health and happiness. When someone is going through a rough patch, we may not be sure how to support them. What to say to help them feel better? What to do? How to help them recover from setbacks more quickly? You may be inclined to tell them to “look on the bright side” and to “be grateful for what they already have”. However, these monochromatic statements are usually not helpful, because they are, on the basic level, dismissive. When happiness and positivity are compulsively pushed, the person doesn’t have the opportunity to feel truly heard and accepted, understood and supported. Instead, it can seem like he or she is rushed to stop feeling the way they feel, their emotions minimized and invalidated.
If we, instead, let the other person connect to their emotions and allow them to share them with us without judgment or the urge to run away to positivity, we are giving that person much-needed space to be authentic and still accepted. We are sending the message: “You can be yourself. It’s okay to not feel okay. I am here anyways”.
With toxic positivity, although it is usually not our intention, we are showing the other person that we are uncomfortable with their feelings and that we will put ourselves in the first place, urging them to stop feeling the way they feel so we can stop feeling uncomfortable. A much better, more comforting approach, is to show the other person that we are ready to sit with them with their emotions, that they are not alone, and that we are there to patiently give them our compassion and support. It can be truly healing.
So, what can you say instead of generic, “encouraging” sentences to support someone? Here are some suggestions:
It is important to acknowledge the reality of our emotions. Once we honour our feelings, we honour the whole of ourselves. We accept our positive parts, but also other, not-so-pretty sides. Accepting and loving ourselves as we are is the path toward balanced emotional life and better well-being.
If you like this article or think someone can find it useful, please be free to share it on your social media or leave a comment down below.
Interested in learning more about coaching or therapy? Contact us today.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield
The majority of us are eager to offer kindness and compassion to other people, and value when we receive them from others. However, when it comes to giving these same things to ourselves in the moment of suffering, we are more reluctant. Does being kind to myself means I’m self-indulgent? Selfish? Weak? Not only that, but when we fail to live up to our expectations, we often tend to let our inner critic become loud and take over, dismissing the value of kindness directed to ourselves. But what if there is a better way?
3 Elements Of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is a way of treating yourself – in a supportive way, with understanding, and acceptance. It’s having a friendly, caring, comforting attitude toward ourselves, like a good coach that motivates through support and understanding instead of through harsh criticism.
The concept has been around for a while, but Dr. Kristin Neff was the first one to operationally define it, measure it, and popularize it. She proposes there are three elements of self-compassion:
- Self-kindness – Having an understanding, comforting, and caring attitude toward ourselves instead of using harsh criticism.
- Common humanity – Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and experience pain at times, and that we are not alone in our experience.
- Mindfulness – Being with what is in the present moment. To be self-compassionate, we need to acknowledge what we feel and make room for it.
Self-compassion is a practice of being kind and loving toward ourselves, whether or not we behave intelligently, correctly, or competently, and whether or not others approve or respect us. It can increase our well-being tremendously, from feeling happier to coping with difficulties more successfully.
Self-compassion is very different from self-esteem. For a long time, self-esteem has been considered a foundation of mental health and the level of happiness. However, more and more researchers suggest that the concept of self-esteem is flawed and can have negative consequences, and that self-compassion might be a better, healthier alternative. We talked about it in our article Forget About Self-Esteem And Replace It With Self-Compassion.
Why Should You Cultivate Self-Compassion?
Studies show that practicing self-compassion releases feel-good hormones in our brain – oxytocin and serotonin – while also reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Long-term, self-compassion sets the stage for better mental health and relationships. It turns out that individuals who treat themselves with compassion and kindness tend to have:
- greater happiness
- greater life satisfaction
- increased motivation
- better physical health
- increased quality of their relationships
- less anxiety and depression
- higher levels of resilience that helps them better cope with stressful events
Practicing self-compassion can help us feel better in times of suffering, but it’s important to note that it’s not always the case. It is not a recipe for happiness or a tool to make the pain go away. Self-compassion is a way of treating ourselves while feeling pain. It helps us to not push ourselves to an even darker place with criticism and self-contempt.
Myths And Truths About Self-Compassion
In our culture that highly values strength and stoicism, there are sometimes some misconceptions surrounding self-compassion. Knowing what self-compassion is not and debunking some myths about it can help us feel more empowered to practice it.
Myth 1: Self-compassion means weakness
✔️ Truth: Self-compassion, research shows, is one of the most powerful sources of resilience, helping people overcome difficulties and thrive. Additionally, it doesn’t focus on “poor me” attitude, but exactly the opposite – recognizing that “things can be hard for everyone, including me”.
Myth 2: Self-compassion serves as an excuse for bad behaviour
✔️ Truth: Self-compassion provides emotional safety to see ourselves for who we really are and, from there, take responsibility for our actions. When we know that we are imperfect humans, it is less likely that we will feel the need to find excuses for our behaviour and blame someone else for our mistakes.
Myth 3: Self-compassion is narcissistic
✔️ Truth: Self-compassion, opposed to self-esteem, doesn’t encourage us to see ourselves as better than others in order to hold ourselves in high regard. Instead, it is a way of relating to our experience in a kind, accepting way and acknowledging that we share the human condition of imperfection.
Myth 4: Self-compassion will undermine my motivation to do better
✔️ Truth: Actually, research shows that being hard on ourselves is a serious motivation-killer. It can draw us back because, if harsh criticism is how we treat ourselves, we know that failure comes with very unpleasant emotional consequences. In contrast, self-compassion can be a motivating force that moves us forward because it provides emotional safety for making mistakes and, further, learning from them.
Myth 5: Self-compassion is just self-indulgence
✔️ Truth: There is a big difference between giving ourselves temporary pleasures and making choices that lead to long-term wellbeing. With self-indulgent behaviour, we try to make ourselves feel better instantly, even if those actions are not beneficial for us in the long term. On the other hand, as mentioned before, self-compassion is not a tool to take away the discomfort; it focuses on our long-term wellbeing, even if it means a certain amount of displeasure in the present moment. But it also provides comfort and emotional safety needed while going through that unpleasantness.
How To Be More Self-Compassionate?
Self-compassion is not always easy to do. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, especially to those who didn’t have caring or particularly supportive figures in their lives. For many, it is a completely new way of relating to themselves. But we can allow ourselves to slowly learn how to do it, one self-compassionate act at a time, step by step.
Here are 5 practices that can bring us closer to being more self-compassionate:
RE-EVALUATE YOUR SELF-TALK
Are you your own worst critic? When you make a mistake, do you blame yourself or put yourself down? Is it how you would talk to your best friend? It’s important to notice our self-talk throughout the day and make a transition from negative self-talk to more kind and empowering way of treating ourselves.
STOP THE COMPARISON GAME
Social comparison is a strong weapon against our happiness. Oftentimes, we tend to compare someone’s best with our average, or even our worst moments which, on top of being pointless, is a recipe for feeling bad about ourselves. Instead, realize we are all different, not only in our traits and abilities, but also in our history and life circumstances.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO MAKE MISTAKES
Encouraging yourself to do your best is not the same as forcing yourself you absolutely must do your best. Allow yourself to make mistakes and forgive yourself for them. This is particularly difficult for some people because they derive a sense of self-worth from performing well, or from perfection. However, you are worthy of love because of who you are, not because of being “flawless”.
Mindfulness and self-compassion go amazingly well together. Noticing what is happening right now, without labelling and with acceptance, is the first step toward allowing yourself to feel how you feel with no judgment. From there, it becomes much easier to manage your emotions and thoughts.
The relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you will ever have. You can’t run away from your own company, so it’s crucial to nurture it. Get to know yourself, your needs, interests, and curiosities, and don’t judge yourself for having them. Instead, allow yourself to schedule some quality “me” time every so often and have a fun or nurturing date with yourself.
Self-compassion is all about giving ourselves room to be human – imperfect and unique, creative and capable of great things at times, flawed and sensitive at other. It teaches us to, though all those ups and downs, unconditionally accept ourselves, and realize that we are connected with others in our imperfections.
How do you practice self-compassion?
Interested in learning more about coaching or therapy? Contact us today.
Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133-1143.
Cousineau, T. (2018). The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World. New Harbinger Publications.
Neff, K. D., Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. L. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of research in personality, 41(4), 908-916.
Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of research in personality, 41(1), 139-154.
Returning to your daily routine after a fabulous vacation can feel like an anticlimactic end to a life-changing experience. It’s like someone slowed down time and showed you all the stresses and chores you have to come back to, and all you can think of is “This is how I’m supposed to live the rest of the year?”. It’s like Sunday night blues on steroids. But, is post-holiday depression real?
Vacations give us the opportunity to escape the humdrum of our daily lives for some time and recharge our batteries… at least they are meant to. But what if, instead of feeling energized and ready for new challenges, we return home with an acute case of post-vacation blues?
What’s Up With Post-Vacation Blues?
Post-vacation blues, also known as post-vacation depression or post-holiday blues, are characterized by feelings of lethargy, anxiety, sadness, lack of motivation, and other unpleasant symptoms associated with the return to work after vacation.
According to the research from University in Rotterdam, people experience the largest happiness boost before their vacation, in the phase of anticipation and planning. Furthermore, shortly after the vacation ends, a significant number of participants reported increased levels of stress, anxiety, and aversion towards returning to daily responsibilities. And, ironically, the longer and more exciting the trip – the stronger these unpleasant feelings that characterize post-vacation depression are likely to strike you.
Feeling blue and unmotivated after a vacation is nothing unusual and is completely understandable. While you’re in vacation mode, you do far more of what you want to do in comparison to what you need to do. You focus purely on pleasure. And that’s great! A number of researches show that taking a vacation can significantly contribute to your mental and physical health. However, a sudden re-entry from ‘mainly pleasure’ mode to ‘more responsibilities’ mode can be a jolt on your mind and body. Thus, you need to take some time to go through this process of re-adjusting to your daily working routine.
Besides, although vacations help you rest, de-stress, and regenerate, they do not eliminate the source of problems that typically bug you in your usual daily routine. A good vacation may help you run away from your annoying boss or your overwhelmingly full inbox for a while, but they don’t fix the issue.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent post-vacation depression or at least minimize its effects. Here are 4 tips that can help you get back on track with a more positive attitude.
1. Mix your responsibilities with pleasurable activities, especially for the first few days.
In other words, give yourself some time to ease back into your daily routine. Getting back from vacation often means having to deal with a pile of chores like unpacking your suitcases, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, maybe some cleaning around the house, etc. But if boring responsibilities are all that waits for you after alluring beaches or calming nature, it can feel like a cold shower and make your life seem a lot more stressful than it actually is.
So, instead of jumping right in and setting your expectations too high for getting everything done immediately upon your return, it may be a good idea to give yourself some more time for post-vacation transition and fill it with little pleasures. For example, make yourself a fancy cocktail and play some music you love while doing the cleaning or sorting out the bills. Or, the first day after work – go to the movies. Having your first few days filled with small stuff that brings you joy and cheers you up can help you avoid the downward emotional spiral post-vacation period can effect.
2. Plan something to look forward to – even if it’s the next vacation.
One part of why post-vacation blues hit us is because, for some time, the anticipation of that vacation brought us pleasure and pushed us forward. Now that this long-awaited vacation – aka the source of happiness boost – has come to an end, our mood drops. Having something to look forward to brings positive expectations and can, therefore, help boost our mood. Even if it’s putting yourself in a holiday planning stage again, whenever that holiday may be.
3. Make a list of everything you love about your life at home.
There is no place like home. And although you enjoyed your trip, returning to the familiar comforts of life at home is something to embrace and express gratitude for. It is probable that the life you live – your hometown, job, family, friends, your usual routine and habits – have a tremendous value to you. This is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate how you live and to notice things that you usually take for granted.
It’s easy to forget and minimize the little joys that make our ordinary day feel comfortable and homey. In that sense, it may be a good idea to take some time and make a list of everything you’re grateful for in your everyday life. Perhaps it’s a view from your window while you’re sipping coffee from your favourite mug exactly as you like it, or the coziness of sleeping in your bed, or returning to your pet, or that grocery store nearby where the kind worker always wishes you a good day, or your neighbour who’s always ready to help. Whatever it is, noticing these amazing, valuable things you’re coming back to is a good way to change the focus from post-holiday blues to gratitude.
4. Evaluate what isn’t working.
If your feelings of anxiety and sadness are persistent a few weeks after your vacation has ended and you find yourself escaping into daydreaming about past times much more than being in the present moment, maybe it’s time to look at why home life is so hard to come back to. Is your job too stressful? Are you too busy? Do you lack interesting hobbies and pleasurable activities in your ordinary routine? Are you bored? And most importantly – what can you change? Asking these questions can help you understand what makes your daily routine so unsatisfying and what steps you can take to make changes and move forward to a more enjoyable life.
You don’t have to do this alone. If you need help and guidance in identifying what holds you back and creating an action plan for overcoming these obstacles, don’t hesitate to ask for help. We’re always here.
How do you feel after a vacation? Have you ever experienced post-vacation blues? Share your thoughts and experiences down below in the comments! And if you like this post, please don’t forget to share it with your friends on social media – you never know who you might help.
Welcome home and happy summer!
Chen, C. C., & Petrick, J. F. (2013). Health and wellness benefits of travel experiences: A literature review. Journal of Travel Research, 52(6), 709-719. Online HERE
You probably heard that self-esteem is one of the most important things for leading a productive, successful, pleasurable life. But the term is a little confusing – does it mean self-worth? Self-respect? How do you know your self-esteem is too low and how much of it is too much? What is the optimal level of self-esteem?
Cambridge English Dictionary defines self-esteem as “belief and confidence in your own ability and value”. Self-esteem is also often defined as “One’s own sense of self-worth or personal value”. What is problematic in this concept is that it refers to “worthiness” and “value” of the human being.
The Illusion of Self-Esteem
Let’s stop for a second and see what value means: “The regard that something is held to deserve”. Indirectly, the term “self-esteem”, therefore, suggests that holding ourselves in high regard is something to be deserved. It suggests that we need to have certain traits or do certain things to earn to be “worth” of respect and love. It inevitably includes self-evaluation. But here is the thing…
You are “worthy”, “valuable” and “deserving”, if you want to use these poor terms, simply because you exist, because you are alive. There is no such thing as “more valuable” or “less valuable” person. Achievements, skills, talents, or some qualities or lack of those can’t determine our human value, because our worthiness is already set simply by our existence.
It is important to note that self-esteem is a concept different from self-efficacy, which refers to how well you believe you’ll handle future actions, it represents your belief in your own abilities. Someone can be appreciated by many people, accomplish great things, be successful in several areas, and those are all amazing things that are certainly pleasant. You may achieve greater happiness or more efficiency by achieving your goals or by believing in your abilities, but that doesn’t increase your intrinsic worth, nor do your failures can lower your human value.
Chasing Self-Esteem Won’t Make You Happier – Maybe Even the Opposite
Another problem with the concept of self-esteem, other than the fact that it is based on non-existent, or at least unhealthy, premises of “worthiness” and “value”, is that it also obliquely requires comparison with other people. Evaluation can’t exist without comparison to some “standard” or some external object. Therefore, determining our own worth means we first have to compare ourselves with others. As Albert Ellis, the father of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) claims: “Self-esteem theoretically rests upon an often inaccurate and unstable global rating of the self in comparison to others”. This necessarily means that, to have high self-esteem, we need to feel above-average. You can easily see it in the simple fact that today, in our culture, being seen as average is considered an insult. But for every human being to be special and above average is logically impossible.
Trying to see yourself as better than others all the time is exhausting and can easily lead to self-criticism. To retain superiority, we have to meet very high standards. As soon as our feelings of superiority slip – which is inevitable because there are so many different people in this world and there is always someone better, smarter, prettier etc. – our self-esteem easily goes down.
For a long time, mental health professionals believed that high self-esteem is a predictor of greater happiness and life satisfaction. However, as much as this notion seems like common sense, research shows that there is no scientific evidence of a correlation between higher self-esteem and pleasurable living.
Another study states: “Self-esteem in the West is not based upon an unconditional appreciation of the intrinsic worth of all persons. (…) Research, in fact, demonstrates that high self-esteem displays associations with a broad range of psychosocial dysfunctions, including, for example, narcissism, poor empathy, depreciation of others, prejudice, aggression, and distorted self-knowledge”.
Okay, if not self-esteem, then what? Well, there is actually a healthier alternative to self-esteem that really predicts better mental health, greater life satisfaction, and overall happiness – self-compassion.
What Is Self-Compassion?
“Self-compassion means that the individual fully and unconditionally accepts herself whether or not she behaves intelligently, correctly, or competently and whether or not other people approve, respect or love her” (Ellis 2005, p. 38).
Self-compassion is the way of treating yourself – in a supportive and non-judgmental way, with kindness, understanding, and love. Being self-compassionate mean that you recognize previously mentioned notion about all humans having value simply by the fact they exist in this world, not by the set of traits and abilities they possess. Self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations, without forcing yourself to meet some high standards to feel that you are okay as a person. It allows you to look at yourself from a more objective and realistic point of view without evaluating or comparing yourself with others.
Why Nurturing Self-Compassion Over Building Self-Esteem?
Opposite to high self-esteem, studies haven’t found any negative effects of self-compassion yet. In fact, self-compassion predicts better psychosocial adjustment and resilience while avoiding the liabilities associated with high self-esteem.
Self-compassion gives us a more stable sense of self-love because it comes from within. On the other hand, as it’s based on comparison with others, self-esteem is unstable because it depends on external circumstances. This often results in having a more negative emotional reaction or protecting behaviours when people evaluate us negatively or even neutrally because we are trying to protect our self-esteem from collapsing. With self-compassion, in contrast, we don’t need to defend or protect ourselves from negative feedback, because we know that it won’t affect how we see ourselves as a person.
Self-compassion provides emotional safety to see ourselves as we really are. Instead of labelling ourselves as good or bad, as of high-value or worthless, we should accept our flaws with an open heart, take responsibility for our behaviour and choices, and still be kind to ourselves. It’s okay that we are imperfect humans leading imperfect lives, and we don’t need to strive to be “better” than others to love ourselves or hold ourselves in high regard.
Imagine how life would be if you loved the way you looked? Yes, including all those beautiful imperfections. Instead of wanting to change that certain part you dislike about your body, what if you came to completely accept it? What if loving your body became natural for you?
Living in a social media driven world, what’s online may make one feel anything but empowered and self-assured. Unfortunately, media has led us to believe that if we look a certain way, our lives will magically become perfect.
We get it, feeling confident in the modern world may not be easy but it’s totally possible. There are many women out there who love their bodies – and they’re all in different shapes and sizes.
Loving your body completely simply boils down to respecting yourself and accepting how you look. Using yoga as a tool, we assure you that the journey to this place is going to be an incredibly joyous one, and we will explain how in this guide.
Asana in yoga helps you reconnect with your body
Asana, or yoga postures, allow you to connect with your body via breath and movement. Postures in yoga allow us to separate different aspects of our body, comprehend their functioning and understand how these areas work together. Learning this key lesson is something that everyone at the Marianne Wells Yoga School is able to master very quickly.
If you’ve suffered from negative body image at any point in your life, you’re probably aware that it largely involves avoiding and isolating oneself from aspects of the body that induce feelings of shame and self-loathing.
Yoga helps you extricate yourself from this escalating form of neglect by encouraging you to listen to your body. To perform any yoga posture, you have to acknowledge each part of your body and understand how it prefers to move. Yoga provides a lot of benefits for the body, so for the health-conscious, this is a great exercise to start with.
Pranayama promotes peace of mind
Yoga comprises of two main parts: breath (pranayama) and posture (asana). Pranayama, or more specifically, Ujjayi, is a specific style of breath in yoga. It develops heat in the body while stimulating rest and the feeling of peace.
Ujjayi is a deep and potent type of breath that fires up the lungs and throat. While this may sound counterintuitive in promoting rest, one of the main purposes of Ujjayi is to relax the body. It is a long, smooth breath created by lengthening your inhale and exhale.
A longer breath signals your body to relax. Taking some time to rewind is a great way of promoting self-love.
Yoga is an excellent stress-reliever. A 2005 German study indicated that women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” showed significant improvement in their mood and overall sense of well-being after being treated with 90 minutes of yoga per week for 3 months. Well-being scores improved by 65%, and depression and anxiety scores improved by 50% and 30% respectively. Complaints regarding back pain, poor sleep and headaches had also been resolved.
Yoga encourages positivity
One of the key aspects of yoga is performing mantras. Contrary to popular belief, mantras are quite simple and can help you during meditation. They’re simply words or phrases, each with different purposes, such as helping you overcome challenges and showing gratitude.
Repeating mantras is a great way to understand the power of a positive mind. When you repeat a mantra every day, you start believing that it is true. With each passing day, the mantra and your belief in it become stronger.
“I love myself. I am beautiful, intelligent and unique.”
You don’t have to limit yourself to traditional mantras. You can even create your own. A mantra (such as the one above) that holds meaning in your heart and resonates deep within you can be easily brought to life by you. You are the creator of your positivity.
You’re always amazed
Just a few weeks of yoga is enough to fascinate anyone. You’ll be surprised to know that it is not the yogic postures, but watching what your body is capable of that will amaze you.
With time and practice, you become capable of moving your body in ways you never even imagined. With time, you’ll be able to effortlessly stand on one foot, wrap your arms and legs into an eagle, and even balance your whole body weight on your arms.
Whether you’re performing an advanced posture or you’re in the process of deepening one, you’ll understand that your body is strong, flexible, and incredibly beautiful.
Even though some magazine covers may make you think otherwise, yoga is for everyone. Yoga is a beautiful journey where you can witness your body’s full potential and truly appreciate what it can do.
In most cases, people never discover their body in their optimal strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga is an invigorating experience which can make you feel like a warrior every day. Once you discover this strength within you, it’s hard not to feel grateful for the body that gives you so much.
Yoga creates communities of love
Yoga retreats, classes, and online platforms bring in several like-minded people, helping in creating a strong and supportive community. Practicing Yoga is not only fun, but it is empowering.
People join yoga classes for a variety of reasons. While some join it for physical reasons such as toning up and building flexibility, others join it to relax their bodies. Whatever your reason may be, you’ll soon realize that yoga brings about another essential outcome: feeling comfortable in your skin.
Almost anyone who joins yoga wants to learn to love his or her own body. Yoga creates a space where everyone, at the same time, is thinking about their connection with their bodies.
When you join your first yoga class, be sure to introduce yourself to someone and ask them what brought them to it. Listen to their response and share your reason as well.
Author Bio: Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International.
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining
Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I – Neurophysiologic Model. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;1:189–201.
Catherine Woodyard. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-DecExploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life.
Collins C. Yoga: Intuition, preventive medicine, and treatment. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1998;27:563–8
McCall T. New York: Bantam Dell a division of Random House Inc; 2007. Yoga as Medicine.
“I’m done with dating. No, really! I don’t see the point of it anymore”
Is this something you have thought of or said aloud recently? You’re not the only one. Dating isn’t always as fun as it’s made to sound. It’s a lot of time and effort put together. You spend hours of your precious time and energy on finding someone you’re interested in. It is followed by working hard on making yourself presentable and then taking the time to get to know that person. Most of the time, if not all, it turns out to be a dead-end, and with that emerges dating burnout.
Signs of dating burnout
1) It isn’t fun anymore.
What started off as fun initially is not so anymore. The dressing up, the conversation to get to know the other or the texting that comes after the date has lost its appeal for you.
2) You have had one bad date after another in a series.
Your date was obsessed with his/ her phone, had weird habits, was drunk or could not get the conversation going, whatever the reason; it just hasn’t worked out in the last few dates.
3) You have been complaining about it for a long time.
Your friends, family and even your dog are tired of listening to you complain about the horrible dates you have been on. You’ve gone overboard and maybe a friend has not-so-politely cut you off letting you know you’ve been talking about hating the dating scene for a tad too long now.
4) You get sarcastic and even rude on dates.
Some people love sarcasm, I get that. But do you think you are getting more defensive, sarcastic and even hostile on your dates lately?
5) Dating = exhaustion.
The mere mention of dating puts you off and you feel terribly exhausted thinking about going down that road again.
If you are experiencing dating burnout, what should you do to get yourself back on track?
1) Take a break
This is the first thing you need to do once you realize you are experiencing dating burnout. You need to leave the scene and mix things up a bit before bouncing back. Taking a break would ensure you take the pressure off yourself. Take the time to be around people you like and enroll in that hobby class you have been thinking about. Getting off the dating cycle leaves you with plenty of time to indulge in yourself. Take advantage and have a life again. Dating comes with a lot of pressure. It’s often when the pressure is off and you’re going about your life that you find someone you’ve been looking for.
2) Assess what’s going wrong
Once you have taken a break from dating and are feeling good about yourself, revisit the past. Look at where you’re coming from and how it’s affecting your present. Do you harbour unresolved issues from your past relationships? Are you really ready to move on? Are you trying to find your ex in all your dates? If you think your ex may be holding you back, it’s important to close that chapter of your life before moving on.
What do your expectations from your date look like? Are you going overboard in wanting someone who’s good-looking, rich, sensitive, charming and funny all in one? Well, that might be a bit unrealistic, don’t you think? Chart it out. List down your priorities in order. Think of the bigger picture and what is it that you want at the end of the day? Too many expectations and running after an elusive perfection may spell doom for your dating life.
Do you find yourself in difficult relationships which have a common theme? Are your partners all unavailable, committed, need to be taken care of, or take undue advantage of you? If you seem to be choosing the wrong partner all the time, you need to assess what is going wrong in the dating phase itself and set it right.
How do you feel about yourself? Do you take hours getting ready for a date? Do you feel you don’t look good enough? How you feel about yourself reflects in how you present yourself and that may be a reason for dating being unsatisfying for you. You need to be confident and feel secure about yourself. When you are content being who you are, you will start attracting the right people.
3) Laugh it off
Humour helps in almost all situations. Do you think these bad dates would matter a year from now? Five years from now? I bet you’ll be sitting with the love of your life telling him/her about these misfortunate dates from your past and having a good laugh over it. Tuck it in for a funny memory down the line. Laugh it off.
4) Don’t take it out on yourself
Your last four dates didn’t work out. Big deal! Don’t fall into the trap and feel like the biggest loser on earth. You aren’t. There is nothing wrong with you and no, you aren’t doomed to be single for the rest of your life. Haven’t you heard that slow and steady wins the race? Or how about, patience is the best virtue? You’ll get there. Don’t put yourself down.
5) Don’t lose hope
Dating burnout leads to the feeling that there’s no one out there for you. Believe me, when I say, nothing could be further from the truth. Set your sights right. Get back from the dating break. The love of your life is out there and you will find him/her.
Who knows, maybe your perfect match is just a click away?
Are you the type of person who needs to do everything in a particular way? Or perhaps things need to be “just so”. It can be tough to let it go and let things just be but maybe it’s time to give it a try! New research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology shares that perfectionism may lead to stress, burnout, and potential health problems. The researchers took a look at the results of 43 studies, over the past 20 years, and found that concerns about perfectionism can sabotage success at work, school, or on the playing field.
When we think about it, those with perfectionism tendencies have a hard time accepting flaws. They can be hard on themselves, as well as others, because everything needs to be perfect. If you’re never pleased with your work, then things will never be good enough for you. It will be very difficult to stop working because you’ll always wish to make things better.
To work on reducing perfectionist tendencies, try setting realistic goals. Also, accept failures or less than perfect standards as learning opportunities that help you improve for the future. Most importantly, forgive yourself when you fail, and reframe failure as a growth opportunity, rather than defeat.
Finding time for yourself is essential for a happy life. Yes, it is important to be ambitious, but so is finding time for family and friends and helping others out. However, it’s necessary to take a break and give yourself some love from time to time. This way, you will have enough resources for everything else that you may strive to achieve. Look at that as a time to refill and charge your batteries. You can’t use your phone when its battery is empty, right? It’s the same with yourself. You can indulge in your favourite activities to relax, be it taking a spa break, going on a vacation, or just seeing a few friends on the weekend. There are unlimited options that you can explore. So, here are 6 reasons why you should schedule time for yourself now:
1. You Love You!
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you know that before take-off during the safety demonstration the Flight Attendants remind you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping the person next to you. The same goes for everyday life! You have to help yourself before you help others, which means unconditional, self-love, all the time.
2. You Have Hobbies to Enjoy
There’s something so exciting about scheduling into your planner that badminton class you’ve been thinking about all month that makes you feel giddy all over! Spending time doing hobbies; whether it’s working in the garden, sitting in the sun, reading a book, taking a class…whatever it might be you own it, and savour the time, for yourself. Finding something that makes you feel good and passes the time in an entertaining and/or soothing way is essential in a world where everything goes by so fast.
3. Exercise Is a Habit
When you get into shape, when you start enjoying exercising, it becomes a habit that if you don’t schedule the time to do it, you feel like you’re missing something. The feeling of doing something good for your body and for your mental health is amazing.
Between work, friends, family, your iPhone, and your relationship, you’re always on the go! Scheduling time for yourself includes locking your phone in your sock drawer, unplugging and putting away your laptop/iPad, and actually listening to the sounds of the birds chirping in the distance. Or, it can be going for a walk along a new path. Or just doing something that makes you happy, away from your electronics. Sometimes, there’s a need to just be by yourself, in more of a present, peaceful way.
5. Prioritize Time to Set Goals
You know it’s easy to get carried away with life. Often you say to yourself, “where has the time gone?!” You think back to the days of your early 20’s and say, “that feels like yesterday”. You know that setting goals in all areas of your life help you succeed, and that taking the time to visualize and plan where you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years is the key to your success.
6. Peace and Quiet
That’s right. Studies show that even today, women work as long as men and have more responsibilities around the home than men do. So, scheduling solitude for the tranquillity that comes with quiet time helps you hone in on your creative skills, unwind, and find more pleasure in the present moment (which research says really does make people happier. If you want to find out more about mindfulness and great benefits of focusing on the present moment, read our article: “6 Reasons Why Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Life Is Helpful”.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
We wake up each morning, thankful for the opportunity to see the beautiful day ahead of us. What’s the forecast for the day? Maybe there are clouds rolling through the sky, or perhaps the sun is shining down on you, filling your body with warmth, Vitamin D, and rays of love. As the day progresses, you start your day’s activities – take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work. As it gets later in the day, you don’t often realize how fast time has gone by, and how much life is happening all around you.
So often we consume ourselves with tasks – keeping busy makes us feel productive, “fulfilled”, and satisfied thinking that we are doing something we “should” be doing. Have you ever stopped yourself in the moment and thought, “Wow, where did today go?” or “Why is time going by so slow?” We’ve been conditioned by our culture in Canada to keep at it, to work hard at our jobs and to give our company’s overtime: but at what cost?
I’ve spent the past year focused on being more mindful. Mindfulness is a state of focusing actively on the present, without judgment towards your feelings or thoughts. When you’re more mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without criticizing or judging them as good or bad. I like to imagine it as seeing your thoughts and feelings on a cloud in the sky. You see them there, but you just observe them as they float on by.
Taking a New Perspective Through Mindfulness
From my experience, practicing mindfulness takes time and patience. For the newbie, the concept of actively focusing on the present can seem difficult, or even daunting! “How do I observe my thoughts? I’m thinking about all of my day’s activities, troubles, concerns…it’s so hard for me to NOT think about them!” Well, it is true. It is hard for those just starting out. But, let me reinforce how valuable this technique is, the more you practice, and the more you integrate it into your life.
I heard an analogy once about learning something new. I think it relates very nicely to mindfulness, or even other techniques in personal development. In Canada, we drive on the right-hand side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the left-hand side of the car. Now, imagine you’re in Antigua, where they drive and sit on the opposite side. In this situation, we’re assuming you already know how to drive. But, you don’t have experience with driving in this type of environment. So how will you learn this new skill? Well, you’ll probably learn the rules and patterns of this different style of driving, and then get real experience behind the wheel. While driving, all of your focus will be on paying attention to the details around you (as it really should be when you’re driving!). After time, and practice, you’ll start to get the hang of things, and this new skill won’t seem as difficult.
So, as you’re going about your day-to-day business and activities, start to notice what in your life is on autopilot. Are you noticing your actions? Are you consciously aware of your activities and surroundings? If you’ve answered no to any of these then stop for a moment, and notice the sounds around you. Maybe the humming of a fan, or the sound of the breeze against the leaves, or the dogs barking in the distance. Next, stimulate your eyes! Tune in to the colours around you; let your eyes soak in life’s beauty.
As they say, “stop and smell the roses.”