How to stop being hard on yourself

I know the self-hatred that can surface when you feel like you are not getting anywhere.

You're trying to lose weight and it just won't budge. You want to stop procrastinating at work but every time you try it backfires. You've got financial goals that are really important to you but you don't seem able to save what you want to save.

For me, I've been hard on myself about practically everything. (Any other perfectionists out there?) I don't call my family enough. I made a mistake at work. I ate something I didn't really want to eat. I took a sick day from work when I could have gone in. I could go on forever. 

And here's the thing. This gets us nowhere. All it does is activate a cycle of guilt and anxiety that makes it impossible to change the things we want to change.


I'm going to share with you the revolutionary concept that has drastically reduced how hard I am on myself: curiosity.

Curiosity is what fuels our desire to learn and to understand and experience things we haven't before. It is closely related to our ability to judge things, to observe and to learn and to make connections about what we see and experience. But there's one important difference: while judging places values (good, bad, and in between) on what we experience, curiosity is neutral.  

Curiosity does not require "goodness" to allow for learning. And when we turn to ourselves with curiosity instead of judgement, we benefit from each step in the process, learning and growing as we do, with no guilt and no pressure. 

Curiosity means approaching life as one big experiment. Think about high school science class, when you would come up with a hypothesis and set about trying to prove it.  Did doing the assignment rely on the hypothesis being right? No, it relied on you having the curiosity to see what would happen. And then to draw conclusions - neither good nor bad, just ideas - from what you saw.

This is how you need to approach yourself if you are ready to be gentler on yourself. Practice talking to a friend about your situation by simply observing with no judgement allowed. Try writing in your journal making simple bullet points of what has happened, using as few adjectives and values as possible. 

 

See what happens when you observe yourself with neutrality, like one lifelong science experiment.

Get excited about each thing you learn - even if it's not what you wanted or expected. 

This is what will really allow you to make change.