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10 Strategies to Stop You Being Too Hard on Yourself


recoveryDo you tend to be too hard on yourself? This is unfortunately a common trait of people who fall into addiction, and it tends to follow them into recovery. It can mean that you are overly critical of your own efforts, which can sap your motivation and lead to problems with motivation.

Some of the warning signs that you are being too hard on yourself would include:

  • your inner-dialogue tends to be negative and critical most of the time
  • you have higher standards for yourself than you have for others
  • you use the word ‘should’ a lot
  • you tend to expect the worse to happen
  • you suffer from symptoms of depression
  • you are your worst critic
  • when you fail, you berate yourself without mercy
  • you find it hard to self-soothe when you are feeling down – you become self-critical instead
  • you tend to put yourself down to other people.

If you think that you might be treating yourself a bit too harshly, here are 10 strategies for how you can start to overcome this tendency

1. Have Realistic Expectations

You can probably achieve a lot more than you realise, but it is important to get the balance right between goals that get you out of your comfort zone and being realistic. It is best to see your goals as something to aim for rather than using as an excuse to make yourself feel bad because you are not achieving them. You need to accept that life rarely turns out as expected, so you need to be flexible when it comes to your expectations for the future. It is also important that you have a plan for achieving a goal and not just expect that the fact you want it is going to make it happen.

2. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

Getting things done will often require leaving your comfort zone, but you need to be realistic about this. Your body and mind needs time for rest and fun, so if you don’t make time for this then it is going to reduce your motivation; it can even lead to burnout where you feel unable to function. It is also vital that you get a good night’s sleep otherwise you will not be firing on all cylinders. Never feel guilty about taking a day off because this can be as crucial for success as the actual work you do.

3. Break Your Goals into Manageable Chunks

If you try to accomplish a large goal in one chunk then you are likely to start feeling overwhelmed, which can lead to frustration. It makes more sense to turn your large goal into small manageable goals, this way you can enjoy a boost to your motivation every time you achieve one of them.

4. Learn to Develop Self-Compassion

You will benefit far more in your life from a compassionate voice in your head than one that is constantly critical and bullying. You can choose to change this inner soundtrack because the critical voice is just a habit. You need to deliberately start saying nicer things to yourself; eventually this more positive voice will become a habit too. Once you have developed self-compassion, it will make you feel stronger in life and you will be less likely to suffer from worry and chronic stress; you will also find it easier to develop compassion for others as well.

4. Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness meditation (metta meditation) is a technique that can help you develop more compassion for yourself and others. It is simple to learn and just practicing it for 10 minutes a day could completely change your life. Buddhists originally developed this meditation, but it is practiced by people from all religions and even those of a secular persuasion because it is so effective.

5. Be Aware of Negative Inner Dialogue

The real problem that individuals struggle to stop being so hard on themselves with is that most of the time they are not aware of their negative inner dialogue. The solution is to become more aware of your thoughts and, when these are negative, you need to challenge them. For example, if you are thinking, ‘I’m going to fail’, you need to know how you can be so sure – do you have a crystal ball? It is by questioning your inner dialogue that you stop being a slave to it.

6. Use Positive Words

The words you use can have a powerful effect on your psyche, so pay attention to what you are saying. If you are regularly complaining about aches or pains or always saying negative things then it is a sign that you may be engaging in ‘stinking thinking’. Try to always say things in a positive way instead of a negative way; for example, instead of saying ‘I am tired’, say that ‘I could do with a bit more energy’. It is also important to keep in mind that all humans are going to have minor aches and pains occasionally – it’s just normal.

7. Develop More Gratitude

If you are being grateful for all the good stuff in your life, it will be easier for you to go easy on yourself. The reality is that most people just take all the good stuff for granted, so they stop feeling grateful. One way to prevent this from happening is to make yourself focus on the positive stuff – keeping a daily gratitude list can be an excellent way of doing this.

8. Remember How Far You Have Come

By giving up alcohol or drugs, you have taken a major step to improving your life. Most people would struggle with this type of major change, which is why they end up settling for a life that is much less than what they could potentially enjoy. By staying sober you are already doing well, so give yourself some credit. Regularly think back to those days when you were struggling with addiction to see how far you have come.

9. Keep a Daily Journal

It is easy to miss the fact that you are making progress once you have been sober for a few months. Initially, there will be some major changes to your life, but then the signs of your progress tend to become less obvious. One of the nice things about keeping a journal is that it allows you to look back over the last few weeks and months, so you find it easier to notice changes that are happening.

10. Remember to Celebrate Your Successes

Celebrating your successes is not about being ‘big headed’; you do this because the sense of achievement gives your motivation a boost so that you are then able to go on and do more. If you are not celebrating the things you have achieved then this is a sign that you are being too hard on yourself. Use your successes as a chance to top up your energy levels and you are sure to go far in life.

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