Compassionate Self-Talk: How to Talk to Yourself Like You Talk to Your Friends
Are you more compassionate to your friends than you are to yourself? Many of us are. Imagine a conversation that you might have with a friend in which they come to you and say, “I should be doing more. I’ve gotten little accomplished at work this past month. What’s wrong with me?”
You reply, “From what you’ve told me, you’re doing the best you can. You have a lot going on right now and you’ve got to take that into account.”
“But I feel like it’s just not good enough,” your friend retorts.
“I know, you feel like it’s not good enough and you want to do more. But it sounds like this is all you can do right now,” you say.
This is a great way to provide compassion to a friend. You should speak to yourself with the same empathy and acceptance, but you might not be in the habit of doing so. The conversation with yourself might go something like this:
“I should be doing more. I’ve gotten little accomplished at work in the past month. I need to do better. There are no excuses. I need to get it done on time, every time. I’m such a failure.”
You might be more empathetic, accepting, and helpful when proving emotional support to your friends. But when it comes to supporting yourself, you might lack these skills. You can transfer these skills to improve how you talk to yourself.
Try these methods to become accustomed to talking to yourself as you would talk to a friend.
- Avoid Name-Calling. Would you call your friend a failure? Would you call them an idiot, unworthy or lazy? If you don’t criticize your friends in such ways, you should apply this same practice to yourself. Calling yourself names will not bring about any positive changes.
- Be Curious. Would you ask your friends questions about their work and productivity or would you automatically assume that they are not doing their best? You’d likely ask questions so that you could be helpful. Try being curious with yourself instead of making hasty and negative assumptions. You can ask: Has anything changed in the last month? What’s going on in my personal life? How’s my job satisfaction?
- Identify Realistic Expectations. “You need to always complete all your work on time no matter what is happening in your life. Would you say this to a friend? Hopefully you wouldn’t, as this is an unrealistic expectation. Instead you might say, “You can’t always be perfectly productive.” If you’re able to have realistic expectations for your friends, make sure you’re setting the same expectations for yourself.
- Express Acceptance. It can be painful when your friend is struggling and you might want to jump in and rescue them by telling them they shouldn’t feel a certain way. It’s better to communicate your acceptance of your friend’s thoughts and feelings before you provide any type of advice or feedback. Simply saying, “I know, you feel like it’s not good enough and you want to do more,” communicates that you understand and accept their attitudes, even if you disagree with them. Try providing this same acceptance to yourself.
- Provide Supportive Feedback. Consider this scenario: Your friend tells you that they are behind at work and they also spend a lot of time checking social media. You might want to bring this to their attention. You might say, “It sounds like you want to be more productive at work. Have you thought about checking social media less often?” When you assess yourself and discover helpful feedback, you should be just as kind. You can tell yourself, “Wow, I’m checking social media a lot. This could be a reason why I’m not as productive. Ok, I can find a way to change that.”
If you speak to yourself like you speak to your friends, you may notice an increased ability to manage your mood and change your behaviors.
Do you need help to express self-compassion? If so, you could benefit from participating in therapy. Contact Symmetry Counseling today to schedule an appointment.
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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