a simple way to treat yourself better

years ago, i went on a bad date.  there have been a lot.  i don’t remember the specifics, but in my mind’s eye, i see myself emailing the miserable details to a friend. 

to begin, i launched into a paragraph on how stupid i was to accept.  then, i continued about how it was even dumber to stay when things went south. 

eventually i caught myself.

staring at the Gmail message, i thought, what would i tell her if this were her experience?

and miraculously, instead of continuing with my self-directed criticism, i wrote comforting advice to myself as though i were my friend

giving myself the distance of imagining my experience as that of someone i cared about made it possible to switch the story.  (email’s letter-like format also helped)

when a close friend explains a dilemma or mistake, i bet you take it seriously, withhold judgment, and offer constructive, actionable advice.  and yet, our own failures are inexcusable

as a result, my friend received a dried-out email that day—more like astronaut ice cream than the real deal—where i glossed over the date and probably focused on yoga or Mad Men.

but in the grand scheme that edit was major progress.  me, gentle with myself?  forgiving and chill?  incredible! 

if this were the SAT and the analogy section still existed, the situation would be:

your shortcomings : reprehensible as a friend’s mistakes :

a.) an opportunity to help

b.) a-ok

c.) understandable

d.) all of the above

although our relationship with ourselves is the longest we’ll ever know, the only one with a lifetime guarantee, we often treat it terribly.

when did we stop being our own first priority?   were we ever?

it doesn’t need to be like this. 

starting now, cultivate a gentle, forgiving attitude toward yourself

here’s how:

you need space.  distance provides clarity.  if you’re too close to your situation, it’s ALL personal.  we’re going for the 10,000-foot view.

as described above, one option is to envision the problem you’re berating yourself over as a friend’s issue instead.  be as kind as you dare.

even more inventive is reframing your tale of irreparable, earth-shattering mistakes as a fictional one.  tell the story, including all the details.  get it all out.  then strategize how the protagonist will overcome the slip-up.  what’s the ideal mindset your character could adopt?  inch your way closer to that perspective.  after all, it’s just make believe.  : )

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