To do this exercise, take pen and paper. Writing down your reflections will give you a better clarity:
Think about all the times you criticised yourself in order to find the motivation to change something about yourself. For example, think about when you said things like “You’re lazy! You have to finish that job!” or “ You are good for nothing! You have to concentrate more!” with the aim to push yourself to change. Think about what pain (or even just annoyance) the harsh critiques caused.
Ask yourself: “Is there a different way, perhaps kinder and friendlier to motivate me to change something?” What kind of words or tone of voice would a friend, a teacher or a parent use in order to outline an aspect about you that makes you unhappy and how would they encourage you to change it? What kind of support message do you think is most effective and at the same time, is coherent with your desire of being happy and healthy? Based on the answers to these questions, re-formulate the way you try to motivate yourself.
Treating yourself with kindness is about practice. From now on, every time you find yourself being self-judgemental, pay attention to the pain and suffering your own words are causing you. With such awareness, try to modify what you tell yourself by thinking about what a person who LOVES you could say. Remember that if you really want to motivate yourself, a kind attitude is more effective than an attitude that causes fear.
Be careful! This exercise is not intended to promote a self-indulgent attitude: if you do something that clearly damages you or causes pain, my suggestion is not to justify and keep hurting yourself. Instead, find a way to push you towards a change that is different from the self-judgement and self-critique you are used to. In the end, you have been judging yourself all your life and you haven’t been able to change many of the things you wanted to: what if you tried to be kinder to yourself? What would happen?
Remember. Be kind to yourself. Always.
Author: Paolo Assandri is a HCPC Registered Counselling Psychologist and a UKCP Registered Full Clinical Psychotherapist. He is also a fully qualified Italian psychologist (Ordine degli Psicologi del Piemonte). He lives and works in London offering counselling and psychotherapy.
This exercise is not intended to replace any kind of medical/psychological therapy. Its only purpose is to increase individual perception of well-being. If you need medical or psychological support, please contact a qualified health practitioner. Authors, producers, consultants involved in the production of this exercise are not responsible for any psychological or physical injury which could happen during or after completing the activity explained in this article.