You may find that you sometimes lose patience with yourself. You want to think, feel, or act differently than you do; and so your inclination is to tell yourself to just be different in those ways. When this doesn’t happen, you become frustrated and try harder. Rather than making progress, you just end up being harsher with yourself. Despite your intentions, this approach won’t help.

What you are failing to take into account is the part of you that’s not ready to change. Whatever its reason is, it will probably just feel intimidated by your self-bullying. So, you need to approach it gently.

To clarify, consider the following scenario: You come across an abandoned child (or dog) in an alley. He cowers fearfully in a corner. You want to help him, so you approach him slowly and with a quiet, reassuring voice. With time and patience, you can probably win his trust and guide him to help.

This is the same approach that you need to take with yourself.  So, using this analogy, do the following:

Identify a self-criticism: Think about a trait or situation that prompts you to be self-critical. 

Imagine the victim in you: See the part of yourself receiving this criticism as a hurt or scared child (perhaps you at a younger age). Try to really connect with what that part of you is feeling.

Practice self-compassion: Choose to be gentle and reassuring with him. You might find it comforting to imagine hugging that part of you, or just placing your hand on his shoulder.

Take time to practice this exercise. Repeat it. And, just as you can calm, reassure and embolden a frightened child or stray dog with kindness and patience, you can be the same loving force in your own life. And with this force, you will find that you feel good about yourself, are happier in your life, and have the resilience to persist in your goals.

Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, NJ. She also writes a blog for WebMD (The Art of Relationships) and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships and Coping Community.

If you would like email notification of new blog postings by Dr. Becker-Phelps, click here.

Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.

Personal change through compassionate self-awareness

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