You absolutely can learn how to be nice to yourself. This is true whether you have been trying to be kinder to yourself for a long time or just starting this journey.
This article will explore 4 practical tips to teach you how to be nice to yourself.
Be Nice to Yourself Tip #1: Pay Attention to Your Self Talk
Right now, you may notice that you speak to yourself more harshly or critically than you’d prefer. This completely makes sense. After all, you’re here to learn how to be nice to yourself which means that your current self-talk may be kind of mean sometimes.
This is no problem at all. You want to work on noticing your self talk without criticism. After all, it just becomes a negative downward cycle if you judge yourself for being critical to yourself.
How to Notice Your Self Talk Without Judgment
Of course, being non-judgmental towards yourself is likely easier said than done. To help with this, it’s wise to begin – or deepen – a mindfulness practice.
An easy way to define mindfulness comes from mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn which is,
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
To pay attention without judgment, means to allow things to be exactly what they are. The statement “it is what it is” perfectly highlights what this means.
Your Thoughts Are Just Thoughts
Being mindful with your thoughts means that if you catch yourself thinking in a mean or critical way towards yourself, it is not a problem. Instead the work is to simply notice without judging it.
To judge something is to decide something is “good” or “bad.” When rather, it simply is what it is that you’re having an unkind thought towards yourself. When you notice these thoughts, you don’t need to grab onto it and engage with it.
You don’t need to decide if it’s true or untrue. For example, if you tell yourself that you’re “dumb” for giving an ex a second chance, you can notice that you are calling yourself names. You don’t need to look for reasons to prove you are “dumb.” You also don’t need to find reasons to prove you are not “dumb.”
Letting Thoughts Go
Rather, when you are mindful, you notice this unkind thought and let it go.
You can imagine this thought floating by like a leaf floating down a river. This visualization can be very helpful when you notice unkind thoughts to be more mindful and less judgmental.
You don’t need to engage with critical thoughts. You can simply be aware of them and choose to let them go.
Of course, while mindfulness is an easy to understand concept, it can be quite difficult in practice. To help with your journey, you may consider completing the Mindfulness Journal for Mental Health: Prompts and Practices to Improve Your Wellbeing by Elizabeth Cronin.
Be Nice to Yourself Tip #2: Choose New, Kinder Thoughts
Instead of arguing with your criticisms, you can let them go. Then you can find new ways to think.
You can move your thoughts to something more supportive after you let go of a harsh or critical thought. Choosing a new thought includes:
- Saying or listening to affirmations,
- Talking to yourself like you would talk to someone you love,
- Praying (can be to your higher power or the ideal version of yourself),
- Thinking about the things you are grateful for,
- Take a nature walk (even in your neighborhood) to focus on things like how many trees you see to get out of your head,
- Practice forgiving yourself,
- Work on letting go of perfectionist thoughts,
- Practice self-validation
Stop Judging Your Emotions
Self-validation is the act of saying that your thoughts or feelings make sense given the situation. One of the best ways to practice self-validation – the act of choosing kinder thoughts – is with how you approach your emotions.
One of the biggest things people commonly judge about themselves is their emotions. A key sign you may be judging your emotions at times is telling yourself that you “shouldn’t” feel the way you do. With an attitude of mindfulness, you will notice that deciding certain emotions are “bad” doesn’t make your feelings go away. Instead, you only feel worse.
How to Use Kinder Self Talk
You can be kinder to yourself by simply expressing your understanding for an emotion. This is the act of self-validation. It’s probably the way you already speak to someone you love by the way! If you do this for others, you are validating them.
Here’s a simple practice for self-validation:
- Notice when you’re judging your emotion “I shouldn’t feel this way,” “I should be over this,” or “I’m being stupid” etc.
- Take a deep breath
- Notice that given the situation & your life experience this emotion makes sense. It does make sense by the way. For example, it’s understandable you would be disappointed if someone cancels plans on you or angry if someone is running late.
- Tell yourself aloud or in your head “Of course I feel this way, it totally makes sense!” or “I understand why I feel this way”
- Repeat as needed
Be Nice to Yourself Tip #3: Remember You Are Human
Most people aren’t kind to themselves when they think they aren’t “good enough.” Maybe you criticize yourself for things you think you “should have” done better for instance.
Of course, part of growing is to notice where we made mistakes to learn from these. However, attacking yourself for times you “failed” doesn’t help you grow. Instead, this unkind treatment of yourself often leads to feelings of being worthless or stuck.
It’s much kinder, instead, to realize you are human. What this means is that all people are imperfect. This includes you no matter how hard you try to be perfect perhaps. All people, yourself included, will experience disappointment, rejection, and failure at times.
Giving Yourself Grace
Self-compassion is the practice of giving yourself grace. One of the key tenets of self-compassion is to honor your humanity.
You can be kind to yourself by reminding yourself that the emphasis on competition in Western society is inhumane. The cultural expectation to always be striving to be the best in every area of life is not humanly possible.
We all have our gifts and strengths as well as our flaws and challenges. All human beings experience success as well as failure and rejection. And all human bodies need rest or they inevitably get sick or break down. When this naturally happens, you can validate your disappointment (see tip #2) and then comfort yourself with the next tip.
Be Nice to Yourself Tip #4: Comfort and Care for Yourself
Learning to be nice to yourself is a practice. You must invest your own time, energy and attention into your own care and soothing to ultimately love yourself more.
The clearest, most practical ways to show yourself kindness and love are through self-care and self-soothing. Self-care is the practice of showing up for your needs and wants to keep your cup full. Self-soothing is the practice of comforting your emotions as needed when you’re upset or overwhelmed.
Stop Putting Yourself at the Bottom of Your To-Do List
One of the most common ways people deny themselves kindness is by neglecting to self-care. Maybe you relate to always putting yourself on the bottom of your to-do list?
While understandable, this pattern sadly reinforces an unkind relationship with yourself because you are showing yourself that you are not worthy of your time or attention.
Related: Why Self-Care is Not Selfish
Creating a Sustainable Self-Care Plan
To break this pattern of being unkind to yourself, committing to small acts of self-care is powerful. You can do this to start with only 5 minutes a day. After years of working with clients, the best way to begin a sustainable self-care practice I’ve discovered is to do something small daily for your basic needs such as drinking an extra glass of water or going to bed a few minutes earlier.
For more guidance on how to create a sustainable self-care plan, please read How to Take Care of Yourself – 6 Simple Self-Care Strategies.
Comforting Your Uncomfortable Emotions
All people, yourself included, will experience uncomfortable, painful, and overwhelming emotions. Remember that this is completely understandable.
The first step to being kinder to yourself is to notice and validate these emotions. Next you want to practice self-soothing strategies. These are coping skills that help you feel better without making things worse i.e., taking a bath instead of drinking (then waking up hungover).
There are many ways to practice self-soothing which include watching your favorite movie or taking a walk. In this article, DBT Skills for Distress Tolerance Which Seriously Make Life Better, you’ll learn numerous therapeutic self-soothing skills from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). You can practice these skills without needing to see a therapist. (Distress Tolerance is another way of saying coping well with uncomfortable emotions without making things worse.)
You Can Be Nice to Yourself
It’s wonderful that you have read this article because you truly deserve being treated with kindness by everyone in your life – yourself included.
When you’re first learning how to be nicer to yourself, it’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed by the process. But please know, it’s completely possible and since you’re human you can do this perfectly. It’s all about progress not perfection. This process takes time and practice.
Each time you treat yourself with more kindness is a success!
More Support to Learn How to Be Nice to Yourself
Please bookmark this article and keep coming back to it for support on your journey of being kinder to yourself.
You may want to pick one action step provided here i.e., a 5-minute daily self-care action and then once you’ve mastered this, come back to this article for another action step.
If you want more guidance, an invaluable resource for learning how to be nice to yourself is the book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff, PhD.
You Can Have a Partner in the Journey
Finally, if you find that it’s really hard to be nice to yourself, you may want the support a therapist can provide during this journey. You can find a therapist through Better Help and with this link, you will get 15% off your first month.
Whatever steps you take right now, please know it’s possible to be nicer to yourself and you deserve it!
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About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her third book, Therapy Within Reach: Setting Boundaries, will be released September, 2023.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to email@example.com or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.