Being kind to ourselves is not about “making excuses.” 

Being fair with ourselves is not about “coddling.” 

Nurturing a constructive relationship with ourselves isn’t even about feeling better (though it does feel better to have a constructive relationship with ourselves rather than a destructive one, all things considered). 

Being cool to ourselves is about FUNCTIONING better. 

If we are mean, unfair, and impatient with ourselves, we will not be able to get ourselves to do things— especially things that are hard. 

Are you motivated to do things for someone who is mean to you? Long term, that is? 

We’re mean to ourselves for lots of reasons. 


Sometimes we’re imitating the people we grew up around, who were also mean to us. 

Sometimes we’re enacting negative beliefs we have about ourselves. 

Sometimes we’re internalizing anger we don’t feel safe expressing at someone else— it has to go somewhere, so it gets directed right back at us. 

A lot of us have been raised to believe there’s virtue in “tough love.” 

We were raised to think that the way to get ourselves do something is to take a hard line. 

We were raised to think that acknowledging how we feel or what we need is self-indulgent. 

We were raised to believe “failure is not an option”— and that if we do fail, it must be because we didn’t try hard enough, possibly because we didn’t expect enough out of ourselves. 

Many of us truly believe that the only way to get results out of ourselves is to pressure and shame ourselves. 

Every single time I write about shame, I get someone in the comments defending shame as a necessary and effective behavior modifier. 

Shame does not motivate us to do anything in the long term except hide. 

Guilt has to do with behavior. Feeling bad about something we did is sometimes appropriate. We can change what we do. 

Shame has to do with us. Feeling bad about WHO WE ARE is a dead end. We can’t change who we are. And we don’t need to, because there is NOTHING WRONG WITH WHO WE ARE. 

You have as much right to self-kindness and self-respect as anyone on the planet, who has ever existed. 

In recovery, we are going to ask ourselves to do and tolerate some hard things. 

The ONLY way that’s going to work is if we trust ourselves. If we have the kind of relationship with ourselves where we’re WILLING to take risks and tolerate distress. 

We will NOT find our way out of depression while being harsh with ourselves. 

We will NOT find our way out of anxiety while mocking our fears. 

We will NOT find our way out of addiction while minimizing our pain. 

The ONLY way we have ANY hope of changing how we feel and function on a long term basis is by establishing a relationship with ourselves that is respectful, consistent, honest…and kind. 

We’re not going to shame our way out of this. 

We’re not going to “discipline” our way out of this. 

Our only option, if we are serious about recovery, is to love our way out of this. 

If we’re serious about recovery, having our own back isn’t optional. It’s the STARTING POINT. 

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