Advice from Claire: How to Be Kinder to Yourself

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Do you tend to beat yourself up over every mistake you make? Claire gives you some tips on how to cultivate more self-compassion. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who wants help dealing with hostile relatives.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:00

Would you berate a friend for making a mistake? Yell at your kid for not getting something right? Probably not. But why is it that we do this to ourselves?

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:14

I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on new day. Kindness. It’s easy to show it to others, but not so much by ourselves. Look, life is hard, especially these days. So why are we making it even harder by beating ourselves up on a regular basis? Why are we listening to that inner self critic so often, author and psychologist Kristin Neff, also a past guest on this show, explains that the reason we do this is actually biological. Our inner critic is trying to ensure our safety and success. Because our biological response to danger is the fight flight or freeze response. Our inner critic reads a mistake as a real life danger to our very essence, to our ability to be loved, accepted by others, and to our ability to provide for ourselves. It thinks that the best way to motivate us and to improve or prevent future mistakes is to be harsh. And it thinks that the best way to get us through a painful situation is to ignore the pain as a safeguard to not drowning in our sorrow. However, the reality is that being critical and negative may motivate us in the short term. But in the long term, it’s actually really discouraging and demotivating and can easily lead to anxiety and depression. The reality is that the best way to motivate us is through self-compassion, and acknowledging that suffering actually enables us to get through pain. If this negative self-talk and constant criticism of yourself sounds familiar, then there are a few things you can do to improve your levels of kindness and compassion towards yourself. And improving those will also improve your levels of anxiety and depression. Start by working on cultivating self-compassion. This looks like taking a warm and compassionate view towards yourself. Every time you catch yourself beating yourself up, pause and think about how you would talk to a friend or a child who made the same mistake. Would you sue them? Remind them that we all make mistakes sometimes, but it’s okay not to be perfect. Okay, no, tell yourself the same thing. Give yourself praise and recognition for your achievements. No matter how big or small. Carve out time for yourself to relax, enjoy life and partake in joyful activities. Remind yourself of your self-worth. Use a mantra like Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live if you have to. I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And […] people like me. Trust me, I know that seems cheesy. But think about the alternative. What do you think it’s doing to your self-esteem and your well-being to constantly be telling yourself that you suck. Each time you catch yourself using negative self-talk, stop and replace it with something positive. Write it down if you have to. It’s great to keep a journal of positive affirmations and reminders. And it’s also helpful to write down all the critical things you say to yourself so that you can really become aware of how much you’ve been beating yourself up. Again, think of how you would be with a friend or a child who was struggling? What kinds of things would you do to make them feel better? You’re absolutely fucking worthy of the same. I love what Tara Schuster talked about in a recent episode. whenever she’s trying to parent herself with compassion, she imagines that Michelle Obama is her mom and tries to treat herself the way she believes Michelle would. Lastly, do some work around just generally accepting yourself as you are. I love this quote from the great psychologist Carl Rogers. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. It’s a reminder that we can’t start with where we’d like to be. We have to start the work on ourselves from exactly where we are right now. So if you’re a mess right now, let that be okay. Own it, accept it, and give yourself some compassion.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  03:55

Today’s question comes from a listener all the way in Finland. Wherever you are, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind. Send me a question by emailing me at Or by filling out my online form at, you can find the link in the show notes Mandira in Helsinki, Finland asks how to deal with hostile relatives. Hi, my dear, thanks for writing, the hostile relatives. With no other information, it’s kind of hard to know what’s going on here. But I think when anyone is being hostile, it’s a good idea to start setting some boundaries. I would start by limiting your contact with your relatives. Let them know in a conversation or by email that their behavior is not acceptable. It’s making you uncomfortable. And until they’re ready to try a different approach, you’re going to take some space. Next, work on yourself a bit in order to soothe whatever’s coming up on your end. This can’t feel good and can’t be easy. I imagine you’re probably pretty angry and also pretty hurt. Relatives are supposed to be helpful and kind and supportive, not hostile. There’s probably a little grieving to do here as well. Don’t let yourself feel the sadness that comes up from being this situation. And then just start setting those boundaries. It might help to unlink yourself from them on social media set limits for yourself about how much you stew on the situation. obsessively thinking about it and letting yourself get worked up isn’t going to help anyone. You might try writing them a letter, one that you maybe never send. Whenever I’m in a thing with someone and communication is tricky. I like to write them a letter, usually when I never actually send but it can really help to just dump out all your thoughts and hurt and anger onto the page so it’s not swimming around in your head all the time. After that, get really serious about setting these limits, both with them and with how much you’re spending time thinking about it all. Try to fill up that time with positive things instead. Read some good books, cook some homemade meals, spend time with people who make you feel good. And give this thing a rest as much as you can. Wishing you luck on this one Mandira, hope things ease up and that this advice is helpful.

CREDITS  06:07

NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.

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