Surprise! Being Nice to Yourself Really Works!

By Katie, 5:14 am

I’ve talked ad nauseum on this blog about how I got a whole lot healthier when I stopped being so darn hard on myself. Finally there is scientific research to validate my experience.

 (Source)

On my post “Are You Ready for Intuitive Eating?” (one of my most popular posts to date!), a very helpful reader directed me to this New York Times article on self-compassion. It points out that the people who are the most kind and supportive of others are often the hardest on themselves. Does that ring a bell for anyone else?

Turns out we can reap major rewards just by going a bit easier on ourselves. According to the article:

“The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.”

In my experience, this has been key to learning to eat intuitively and healing my relationship with food and my body. We’re taught that if we show ourselves compassion and acceptance, we’ll become lazy and self-indulgent and unmotivated. And yet that’s not how it usually plays out. As Dr. Kristin Neff, a professor of human development at the University of Texas at Autin, points outs:

“Self-compassion is really conducive to motivation. The reason you don’t let your children eat five big tubs of ice cream is because you care about them. With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”

Wise words, my friends. Wise words.

So if you’re knee deep in frustration over your attempts to change – to eat healthier, to move your body more, to be more adventurous, to let go of insecurity, whatever it may be – the problem may be that you’re too focused on feeling negative about your own self-discipline or will-power. The key very well may be to let go of that negativity and start showing yourself the kindness and compassion you show to others.

Now you don’t have to take my word for it. You can take Science’s word for it. ;-)

I’ll be blunt: Are you too darn hard on yourself sometimes?

*Check out this website for more information on Dr. Neff’s work on self-compassion, including a questionnaire to determine your self-compassion level.

29 Responses to “Surprise! Being Nice to Yourself Really Works!”

  1. Sportsgirl says:

    Sometimes, but not often. I’m mostly quite lazy! :-D

  2. Who me? :D I do catch myself being really hard on myself and really try my best to turns those times into learning moments. To bring me closer to my true authentic self. I use those times as a steering wheel, if you will. I think that when I am in going in a direction that is not in alignment with my true, authentic self, that is when the self-judgment and criticism kick in. So, when I realize it is happening, I can take a look at my most recent choices and figure out how to get back in alignment.

    • Katie says:

      Interesting! I will have to tune my awareness to see if my self-criticism is also a sign that I’ve veered off my path.

  3. No surprise, I’m incredibly hard on myself 99.9% of the time, be it food, work, the gym…you get the picture. I’ve gotten better about loosening up, but it’s hard when you’re a natural perfectionist.

  4. this is somthing I’m still in process of learning, agree so important!

  5. bubu says:

    My litmus test often is: would I say this to my best friend? If not, why would I say something so cruel or unsupportive to myself? I have definitely found that being more positive about myself and what I’m doing has not only led to greater happiness, but better health, weight and relationship with food.

  6. [...] which can lead to less emotional overeating, as the study Tara describes suggests. Katie from Health for the Whole Self also had a really great post about this [...]

  7. RunEatRepeat says:

    I am ridic hard on myself and didn’t even realize it until a past race recap where someone actually wrote in the comments, “Are you seriously this hard on yourself?”
    I thought, “Yeah, I kinda am.”
    Now I’m trying to change it. I definitely need to fix my inner dialogue.

    • Katie says:

      Isn’t it interesting how we often don’t realize how hard we are on ourselves until someone else points it out?

  8. AnnE says:

    Thanks for the great post. I can really relate to the quote in your post about “With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.” Last night was not a good night for me, and laying in bed, feeling not so good, I kept thinking about my poor body, and how it didn’t deserve this. The good news is that although there was a bit a panic (is this the start of a downward spiral?), I mostly was able to focus on how to treat myself better tomorrow.

    • Katie says:

      YES! That’s great news! Congratulations! It’s 100% true that you and your body deserve kindness and compassion, no matter how your treated yourself last night.

  9. Lisa says:

    I am NOT nice to myself sometimes. I am my worst critic. I am hard on myself. I discount my achievements and focus on the “screw ups.” I’ve always been this way but lately I am trying to break that habit.

    • Katie says:

      It’s a habit worth breaking! You have SO many reasons to be proud of yourself!

  10. Okay seriously! How are you always one step ahead of me? LOL I’ve recently read that article and bookmarked it for a possible blog post coming up. I would have written basically all you did. Great post! And I still think its so intriguing the thought of self-compassion being viewed as self-indulgence. Makes perfect sense though that we do that!

    • Katie says:

      Haha our minds are crazy like that! I was debating whether to write this post this week or next – had I picked next I bet we would have ended up writing it on the same day or something. :)

  11. Sarah says:

    I certainly am too hard on myself- MANY people who are close to me say so. You make some great points, Katie! Gave me something to chew on this morning.

  12. I like to think of myself as reformed :-) It’s funny because when I think back on how hard I was on myself, I feel sorry for myself! LOL That said, it still sometimes creeps back in, but I am much better at catching myself sooner, and that’s the key. Anyhoo, I am planning on writing something about this study on my blog too…it’s right in line with my message!

  13. Lindsey says:

    So true! As a psychologist I’m always telling clients to be less critical on themselves, but it’s much harder to take my own advice. I hold myself to such high standards I don’t know who in the world could ever meet those goals.

  14. Great post, Katie, and one that I needed to read today! Those negative thoughts were a-creepin’ in–boy are they insidious and tenacious.

  15. Katie,

    This was so good to read. I am loving the groundswell of writing and research about the value of self-compassion. Thanks for your thoughts. They helped me re-focus!

    Ann

    • Katie says:

      Thanks, Ann! I too very much appreciate the burgeoning research in this area.

  16. I’m reading Sasha Loring’s new book “Eating With Fierce Kindness”. I highly recommend it.

    • Katie says:

      I recently saw that on Amazon! I had never heard of it before. Glad you’re enjoying it!

  17. I must admit. I do have my days that I am pretty hard on myself. You don’t just want to lay back and do nothing because you aren’t going to be hard on yourself. Pushing myself always seems to give me a sense on accomplishment. :)

    xoxo
    Kathleen

  18. Great post. I think being hard on ourselves is part of the American female condition! This is something I’ve been working to change for years and slowly steadily I’m making progress. I’m so much kinder to myself than I was a decade ago, but still have a ways to go. The good thing is that it gets easier with practice. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. Yes, I’m terrible hard on myself. It is something I’m working on and am starting to feel better about what I do.

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