Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How Do You Speak to Yourself?

A little kindness goes a long way...

"How do you speak to yourself? I don’t mean out-loud as you’re walking down the street, I mean what is the tone of your inner dialogue, the inner chatter that everyone experiences in day to day life? Are you calm, forgiving and kind, or are you demanding, impatient and judgmental.

It never ceases to amaze me just how unkind we can be to ourselves. And then of course everyone wonders why we have no peace of mind and are unhappy. But how could we possibly talk to ourselves in that way and not be unhappy? And how could the mind be settled and calm when we are constantly berating it?

This is a pattern I see again and again and it’s amazing the different ways that we can justify such behaviour. Just the other day I heard someone say that the reason they were so unkind and unforgiving towards themselves was because they were always thinking of others! This is of course complete nonsense. The ability to be kind to oneself and also to others is not mutually exclusive.

In fact, I would argue that until we have learnt to be genuinely kind to ourselves, then how could we possibly be genuinely kind to others. More realistically, what we’ll actually be doing in these situations is fulfilling an ‘idea’ of kindness, rather than coming from a ‘place’ of kindness. In this sense, it is a ‘learned’ kindness, rather than necessarily reflecting our ‘innate’ kindness.

If you’re not too sure what healthy mind chatter sounds like, then I think the following can be a useful rule of thumb. If you said the same thing and spoke in the same way to a close friend, how would you expect them to react? Likewise, if they said the same thing, or spoke in that tone of voice, to you, how would it make you feel? If the answer is ‘not very good’ then you could probably do with softening up.

That doesn’t mean ‘trying’ to be different or thinking ‘positively’. Instead, it means noticing when you snap at yourself, when you beat yourself up, when you reinforce negative thought patterns, and in that moment of realising what it is you’re doing, seeing it for what it is -- a thought, a feeling, just passing by -- no more than that. In that moment you will see how the mind softens, how it lets go, and how it finds a new sense of calm and clarity in the most unlikely of places."

Want to learn how to soften the mind-chatter and learn how be kinder to yourself? Sign up to Get Some Headspace right now to start on your free 10 days of meditation and take advantage of a fantastic reader offer for the Psychology Today community. This post was originally posted on the Headspace Blog

More from Andy Puddicombe
More from Psychology Today