Being a Little Nicer to Yourself

by Elizabeth Lopez

One of the most common things I see from clients, as a clinician, is a lack of self-compassion. In fact most clients are pretty well-versed in being a complete jerk to themselves. I’ve come to realize this is something influenced by society for all of us. Just think about all the messaging we receive and it’s ability to translate into “you’re not good enough.”

If we take a step back and look at the way society operates, we find it is very individualistic. People are often more concerned about the part (themselves) than the whole (community). We find ourselves driven to be “prettier than”, “smarter than”, “more successful than”,etc.

These pressures become even more complicated by social media where the depiction of life literally and metaphorically is filtered. For the most part people only show their “highlight reels”, rather than their authentic selves. This leads to a distorted comparison for followers because they only see part of their “friend’s” story and compare it to their whole story. Commonly said - we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. On top of that, a significant amount of the images we see are altered, which reinforces unrealistic physical standards for the large majority. Considering all this, it’s no wonder that many of my clients are stuck in a world of comparison, constantly criticizing themselves in their head.

Enter self-compassion.

Self-compassion provides a way to implement strategies that encourage one to just be a little nicer to themself, which, if we’re being honest, I think we could all use. It’s a way to challenge the little yet loud voice in our heads that constantly compares one’s reality to someone else’s. Self-compassion is how we relate to the fact that we are all human, and as such we all have struggles and are all flawed. This fosters connection with the human experience rather than distort it or lead us to a place where we are comparing apples to oranges.

Another component of self-compassion is mindfulness. I know when I bring up the mindfulness component to clients, a lot of the time I get eye rolls. But then when we talk through how a lack of mindfulness is an obstacle to change, more people get on board. How are we going to challenge that voice in your head if we aren’t mindful about what it’s actually saying?

The last component is actually practicing kindness to oneself. To me this doesn’t look like telling clients to stare in the mirror and tell themselves they love themselves. It’s more about realistically identifying the strengths and weaknesses and removing judgment. It’s treating yourself like a friend rather than a frenemy. Sometimes, it’s just pausing in the middle of the day and saying to oneself “You’re doing a great job.”

~ Elizabeth Lopez (MA, LPC, NCC) is an experienced clinician at ETHOS Treatment. Her most recent emphasis in clinical practice has been focusing on strength-based interventions that increase self-compassion for those who struggle with low self-worth and self-defeating beliefs that lead to destructive cycles.