Self-Compassion: How Can I Stop Being So Mean (To Myself)!

Written by: Charlynne MacCharles, Social Worker with Capital Choice Counselling Group

Have you ever noticed how harshly we talk to ourselves in our own thoughts? We would never talk to a friend in that same voice. Now is the time to learn self-compassion, by becoming a better friend to yourself.

How self-compassionate are you? Take Dr. Kristen Neff’s self-compassion quiz.

Often our internal critic is often telling us what we should be doing and that what we are doing isn’t good enough. These thoughts are often linked to perfectionism, which is different than striving for excellence. In Brené Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection” she describes how perfectionism is focused on others – What will they think if I don’t get this project done to their satisfaction? – versus aiming for excellence, which is standards that are focused on ourselves – How can I improve? As perfectionists, when we don’t meet our unrealistic goals we rarely question our expectations, and instead we question ourselves: “If only I had taken more time to review my work; if only I had gone to the school meeting…” We tend to conclude: “I need to work harder.” Our perfectionism then feeds our inner critic creating a destructive cycle.


We need to re-define our expectations and instead ask ourselves “Am I doing the best I can in this situation? Or in this moment?” This becomes your new definition of success.[1]

Although many of us will recognize the harsh internal critic, it is possible to quiet the critic with a kinder voice. In his book “The Compassionate Mind”, Dr. Paul Gilbert reminds us to focus on our efforts, and not only on the result. Another self-compassion technique to use when the critic surfaces is to ask ourselves “What would I say to a friend going through a similar situation?” or “What would a friend tell me?”

We can also recall our own successful experiences in order to counter our negative thoughts and respond to our critic. For example, if we tell ourselves “I’m not a great parent” we can take a moment to think back to some specific times with our children. “ What are real examples from the past that would show that I have been a good, loving, and nurturing parent?”

When we make mistakes, we can take responsibility and then approach the problem with self-compassion “Everyone makes mistakes, it doesn’t define me… What did I learn? Going forward, what can I do differently?”

With time and practice, these strategies to quiet your inner critic and improve your self-compassion can allow you be kinder to yourself by replacing the goal of perfection with one of steady improvement.


Charlynne MacCharles, MSW, RSW is a Registered Clinical Social Worker with Capital Choice Counselling Group.

[1]from authors Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile “I Was I Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids