One Simple Change: Be Kind To Yourself

I am happy to report that I had a fantastic time at my Cornell reunion. I missed my 5, 10, and 15 year reunions for one reason or another, and I almost didn’t go to this one because I’ve got a lot on my plate this month. But I am so glad that I made the trip to Ithaca! I spent most of my time catching up with friends, of course, but I couldn’t resist snapping just a few photos of the stunning gorges before I left.

At one point on Saturday afternoon, a group of us gathered to share memories of our friend Liz, who died in a car accident in December of 1999. Liz was beautiful inside and out…the type of person who truly made the world a better place. It was nice to get together and talk about how much we all still miss her.

On my way back from the reunion, my heart was full but I was bothered by something. I kept thinking about this post that I put up on Friday night. I felt weird about it. I wished I hadn’t hit the publish button.

I sat with the discomfort for a bit. And tried to figure out why I felt this way.

I realized that I equate not posting on time with failure. And I was really upset with myself for failing.


I trashed the post I was going to finish up so we can talk about being kind to yourself today instead.

{If you are new to my blog, this is the 21st post in my One Simple Change series. OSC happens once a week (usually on Fridays). For these posts, I take off my food blogger hat and rummage around for the one I used to wear when I practiced naturopathic medicine. Then I write about small changes you can make in your life…changes that when practiced and cultivated into habits will improve the quality of your life and help make you a healthier person. This is generally a food blog, and many of my OSC posts focus on healthy eating/nutrition. But some do not, because being truly healthy is about more than the foods that you eat.}

I’ve only been aware of the term “self-compassion” for a couple of months. I wish I’d learned about it sooner, because I have a history of being quite unkind to myself: I was clearly not being kind when I got angry at myself for not finishing last week’s post, made a bunch of excuses, then set another public deadline I couldn’t possibly meet (because I set myself up for failure again, and once again got angry at myself).

What does it mean to be kind to yourself? Being kind to yourself means not judging yourself harshly for not being perfect. It means not holding yourself to impossibly high standards. It means putting an end to comparing yourself to others. It means not beating yourself up for making a mistake. It means not criticizing yourself for “not being good enough” at something. It means not punishing yourself for not meeting a self-imposed deadline when you’ve simply got too much going on.

Being kind to yourself means being your own cheerleader. When you are consistently kind to yourself, you don’t need others to validate your efforts and boost your confidence because you can do those things for yourself.

Do you have an “inner voice” that’s overly critical, too? We should teach our inner voices to say nice things (or not to say anything at all), don’t you think? Wouldn’t it make sense to have reasonable expectations for ourselves so we aren’t setting ourselves up for failure? And why beat ourselves up when things don’t go the way we planned? We should be kind to ourselves when things are going well…and when they’re not. If we were kinder to ourselves, I think we’d all suffer a lot less and there’d be less need for so many people to be medicated for anxiety and depression.

Let’s be clear that being kind to yourself does not mean allowing yourself to spend all your days laying on the couch eating bon bons. Quite the contrary: being kind to yourself means respecting your body so that you take excellent care of yourself. Being kind to yourself means you are more likely to put good food into your body, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. When you are kind to yourself, you’ll feel better physically and mentally. You’ll be more likely to excel at all that you do, and you’ll be better able to take good care of others.

Many people are excellent at showing compassion to others but fall short when it comes to being kind to themselves. What about you? Are you self-compassionate or is this an area you need to work on? Are you “in” for this One Simple Change? I’d love to hear what this topic brings up for you in the comments section below.

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56 thoughts on “One Simple Change: Be Kind To Yourself”

  1. I usually do not comment, but I browsed a few of the remarks here One Simple Change:
    Be Kind to Yourself | Healthy Green Kitchen. I actually do have
    a few questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Is it only me or does it look as if like a few of these remarks come across like they
    are left by brain dead people? :-P And, if you are posting at additional
    places, I would like to keep up with everything fresh you
    have to post. Could you make a list of the complete urls of your social
    networking sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  2. You could not have said it better .I am a student at University and i was thinking about this issue today .Despite having consistently good grades i keep pushing myself almost to extent of neglecting all my other interests and people who matter in my life , oh and myself . And sometimes i wonder ,why do i set extremely high standards for myself which end up stressing me .

    Thank you for the post , it cam just when i needed it

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  7. kinder, gentler, grace . . . retraining our brains to use those words is difficult but it’s important to celebrate even the tiniest of moments when it happens – to reaffirm the success of remembering the kindness to ourselves. you’re doing fine Winnie – talking about it, yanking it from the dark corners of our souls, out into the bright light of day, chewing on it, staring at it, pondering it, questioning it – all help to make those negative words lose their power

  8. I found myself taking a deep slow breath while reading your post – I’m happy to be reading it tonight. What is it about this time of year? I feel like April hits and then we fast forward to July in a blur. I remember what it was like during the 2 weeks before my sons’ bar mitzvahs…take good care of yourself. Thank you for sharing about an important topic that we tend to overlook.

  9. I think we all love this post and I think that we all need to be reminded of the message within it more often. Thank you for writing it.

    P.S. I’m glad that you are happy about attending your reunion and the photos in this post are just beautiful.

  10. A most thoughtful post. We tend to take ourselves for granted, don’t we? A perfect reminder to love and cherish our own special, unique selves.

  11. Hi Winnie,

    I like your clarification about what being kind to yourself really means! And I liked last week’s posting too, because it was honest and…mid-June is crazy! Self-compassion and then in turn being compassionate to others is a big struggle around here. Keep well!

  12. Thank you for this post, Winnie. Practicing self-compassion is one of my biggest challenges. I am very hard on myself in many areas, so your post was an excellent reminder to reflect on this topic more and keep it at the forefront of my thinking. I am a perfectionist, but am slowly learning to “let go”, despite it being so hard. Believe it or not, starting my own food blog has helped teach me to be less of a perfectionist: sometimes recipes flop (it happens!) , the kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it (that’s what the soap, the dishwasher and my husband are for), and photographs don’t come out the way I want (I’m still learning). Blogging has been the unlikeliest of teachers and I love it. It has also brought me so many wonderful friendships, such as yours. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    • So nice to hear this Flavia. Because I think for a lot of people, blogging brings out their perfectionist side and it’s not healthy :)

  13. I have been struggling with feeling like I am “failing” on many levels recently and this post could not have come at a better time for me. I love your OSC posts even if I don’t always comment. They really speak to me. And never, ever apologise for posting (also, don’t feel bad about apologising last week. We all understand). xo

    • Thanks Mardi! ps you are the only one who thinks you’re failing…we all know you’re a star :)

  14. This is a fabulous post… I often struggle with the timeline I have set for myself and the blog, especially lately that my energy just isn’t what it had been pre-pregnancy. I really struggle with how to keep up the blog with my changing life and this post was what I needed to read. Thank you!

  15. How cool, I didn’t realize you were a Cornellian! I am as well :) I hope you enjoyed your reunion…It’s been awhile since I’ve seen those gorges. Thank you!

    Also in regards to self-compassion, I’m trying! I really am but it can be frustratingly difficult. In fact, I think it was some of my academic and personal struggles in college that helped me realize how critical it is to be your own advocate. I’m definitely down for this simple change. And even though One Simple Change has quickly become one of my favorite series in my Google Reader, I wouldn’t mind bimonthly posts :)

    • Thanks for this comment Adey. I have a lot to cover this year so it will remain a weekly series :)

  16. This post title jumped out at me. If only it was one simple change though! Thank you, be kind to yourself, you achieve so much. :)

    • You’re right that it’s not so simple for everyone, though I’ve been surprised at how quickly I was able to revamp my negative internal monologue once I set my mind to it.

  17. Women especially are often much more worried about seeing to the comfort and happiness of others, and not ourselves. So much of the interior negativity derives from worrying about what other people think, and trying to please everyone. I play in an amateur music group who are rehearsing for an upcoming performance. I spend rehearsal time obsessing over my mistakes or missed notes. Last night I got several compliments on my playing. My response was ‘I am trying really hard not to play the wrong notes!’
    Sigh. On the other hand I can honestly say I’m the best in my section (I’m the only one!)

    • Elaine- I think you are so right that woman are more likely to deal with this! Yay for being the best in your section :)

  18. As I’ve mentioned, I love these introspective posts and I agree that it’s much easier to extend compassion for others rather than one self. Yes, I’m totally in for this one. As a steadfast perfectionist, I think this one is a life long journey. Thanks for the much-needed reminder!

    • It is a lifelong journey Nikki! Sometimes I regret calling this series One Simple Change as a lot of this stuff is not so simple. Then again, maybe, we all make it (life) harder than it needs to be :)

  19. Sometimes it seems as if it’s just as easy as making a simple change, the whole notion of ‘letting go’ of something we have burdened ourselves with. But I have found it’s an intricate balance and often woven into the very fabric of who we are.

    I am a perfectionist. It’s not by purpose or design, it just is. I want things to be perfect in my mind for those I love; the perfect meal, the perfect garden, the perfect event. I’ve known for a very long time that the internal engine that demands this requirement of me is not the people surrounding me now so much as the parents I was born to, the birth order I fell in and the family dynamic I lived through; that perfect storm brewed a fair amount of that need to please. I do think some people look at perfectionists as if we have a huge ego, that we think we are somehow better. That’s never been my thought process ever; it’s always been about doing the right thing, not disappointing others, proving my value.

    Guess what? Change is not only hard for us; it is equally hard for those around us when we choose to make it if they have become as entrenched in our behavior as we are! I know. So do my adult daughters…they are so not happy with me when I don’t do things ‘perfectly’ for them. :)

    • I hear you Barb. Change is definitely hard for everyone! One thing I am trying to do with this series is make us all aware of our habits- good and bad- and how if we want to, we can shift things to develop new ones. It’s definitely work, though :)

  20. I love this post, Winnie. I think we learn how to extend grace to others when we start by giving ourselves grace first. I’ve struggled with perfection for years and at the end of the day, I’m just not perfect and I’m not going to be able to do everything perfectly either. I have to remind myself that it’s ok to be human.

  21. I think we all could learn to be a bit kinder to ourselves and not beat ourselves up about our perceived failures (which, in all likelihood, you’re the only person who has noticed, let alone cares about it!). We are our own worse enemies sometimes.

  22. I want to hug you, too! I know all too well what it’s like to beat yourself up for not being perfect, for making mistakes and not always having things go your way. I never realized how much of my ego was tied up in being a great cook and baker until I was diagnosed with celiac’s disease, and the attempts I made at baking gluten free failed miserably. Finally, last night, I managed to bake my very first gluten free banana bread (with Karina’s recipe: and it turned out perfect! What a confidence booster that was; it was like the sun had finally come out from behind the clouds. Now I feel like I can bake anything, and I’m going to take your advice and keep telling myself that I can do this, that I’m not a failure if a recipe doesn’t turn out, that it’s a learning process and I *deserve* the chance to make mistakes and learn from them, despite the perfectionist brain I might have. Thanks Winnie!

  23. Bravo. This was one of my new year’s intentions — letting go of perfectionism and criticism in order to let in acceptance and self-compassion. Not easy, but so, so important :)

    • New Year’s “intentions”? I love that so much more than resolutions ;) ps I find that this stuff gets easier the more you do it.

  24. Lovely post about an important topic. Dennis often quotes the Buddha who says, “compassion is not complete unless it extends to yourself.” xoxoCathy

  25. This is just so true for me. I am consciously fighting it, but it is a big battle.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have thought up or begun something, only to discard it (or quit before even trying) because it wasn’t good enough or I didn’t feel like my skills or talents were adequate to the task.

    These days I’m more likely to finish what I start and, if it sucks, I shrug my shoulders and go do something else.

    You’re so right. We all need to give ourselves a break and not try for perfect. The quest for perfection ruins everything.

    • I hear you Grace. Happy to hear you are following through with more tasks…the quest for perfection does ruin everything ;)

  26. Well, you’re on to something big here! I am my worst critic, and the first to find fault in anything I do. The little voice in my head? Never a good word. But I’m working on it. Ha, what’s funny is that my next sentence was going to be “… and I know where I’m going wrong..”. So my small change today is going to be in this comment, by saying “I know what I’m doing right” instead!!!

    • Just keep working on it…replacing the negatives with something positive is surprisingly easy once you get going….

  27. I want to hug you… because you are so right. It’s true that being kind to ourselves, forgiving ourselves, and learning from our own experiences is key to living a happy life.