Health & Wellness

Treat Yourself Kindly

We often prioritize healthy relationships with people in our lives, but a positive relationship with yourself is just as—if not more—important. And an essential component in such a relationship is self-compassion, or being understanding and gentle with yourself, especially during hard times. 

“We enjoy better mental well-being when we treat ourselves with kindness, forgiveness, and understanding,” says Jeffrey LaPratt, PsyD, a senior clinical psychologist at The Retreat by Sheppard Pratt. “Having self-compassion is necessary for a growth mindset. We are more accepting [of ourselves] when experiencing failures and can grow and learn from mistakes.”

Examples of a self-compassionate response might be treating yourself the same way you would treat a friend in your situation or practicing positive self-talk. Examples of positive phrases you could say to yourself include: 

  • “Everyone makes mistakes, and I can learn from this.” 
  • “I forgive myself for…”
  • “I accept that I am struggling, and I deserve kindness.” 

Self-critical traps

While anyone can engage in negative self-talk, some people are more at risk—trauma survivors; those suffering from depression or anxiety; or those subjected to comparison, bullying, or critical feedback from others.

“In our culture, it’s common to be harsh or self-critical to motivate yourself for change, but this way of thinking can prevent progress and actually cause harm,” Dr. LaPratt says.

Engaging in critical self-talk comes with a host of negative effects, including anxiety, depression, a tendency to isolate oneself, and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. On the most severe end of the spectrum, self-critical thinking can result in self-harm and suicidal ideation.  

Fortunately, Dr. LaPratt says that everyone can benefit from a more compassionate approach, and working with a therapist can make a significant difference.

“I encourage people to reach out before there is a problem,” he says. “Self-compassion skills are not innate. We have to learn them and practice them.” 

Turning points 

Dr. LaPratt says an essential step in practicing self-compassion is believing you deserve it. 

“People can struggle with detrimental core beliefs that by being compassionate, they are saying their mistake was OK,” Dr. LaPratt says. “Self-compassion is not about self-pity, self-indulgence, or selfishness. It’s not narcissism, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for practicing it.

“This work can be difficult, but that means it’s part of the equation that leads to actual change,” Dr. LaPratt says.


Featured Expert

  • Jeffrey LaPratt, PsyD

    Lead Psychologist, DBT
    Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Personality Disorders, Trauma Disorders, Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors, Forensic Psychology

The Retreat by Sheppard Pratt