Be your own best friend; seven simple ways of turning self-criticism into self-acceptance and love

Posted by
Stylist Team
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Anxiety therapist Chloe Brotheridge helps women to become calmer, happier and more confident. Find out more at

I'm sure every human being has experienced this sense of "not being good enough" at some time or another. For many, it's our deepest fear. A lack of love for ourselves is suggested by some as being the root of addictions, stress, even obesity.

When things don't go exactly as we'd like in life, this fear can really come to the surface and instead of being a healthy guide to get better, it can hold us back. Beating ourselves up can contribute to low self-esteem, stress and a lack of motivation. However, the good news is this is something we can change, with practise and a shift in our attitude.

Here are seven ways to turn self-criticism into self-love:

See yourself in a new way

Think of a person who really loves and accepts you. It could be your partner, a friend, a sibling, or your mum. Imagine them standing in front of you, then step out of your shoes and into theirs. See yourself through their eyes, notice all the amazing qualities they see in you and feel the loving feelings they have towards you.

Experience that sense of love for yourself, exactly as you are. Notice all of your flaws and accept and love yourself all the same. Take a few moments to experience that love for yourself and bring it with you as you step back into yourself. You might find there is some resistance to accepting this at first, but with enough repetition, it can start to stick.

Re-frame failures as feedback

Instead of criticising yourself for so called "failures" try to see it all as a process of improvement, of adjusting your course and learning from the results that you get in your life.

In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield suggests we change the way we think of failure, so that we see it all as "feedback". If things don't go to plan, see it all as useful information that you can use to help you to get better, rather than taking it to mean that you're not good enough.

JK Rowling had her first Harry Potter book rejected by 12 publishing houses before it was accepted, Thomas Edison purportedly attempted the light bulb with 1000 different materials before finding the right one, while Colonel Sanders was said to have been given 1009 "no's" before he was given a "yes" to buying his famous chicken recipe that began Kentucky Fried Chicken.

If these people had taken things personally after a few failures, they would never had had the success that they achieved. 

See the gifts in your challenges

In her book Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, Lori Deschene asks us to identify how the challenges we've gone through can help us to help others. Maybe a difficult childhood means you're focused on being a better parent than your parents were, perhaps having made a mistake at work helps you to guide others in not doing the same.

You have overcome a lot of difficulties, learned a lot and gained valuable insights because you are the way you are, not in spite of it. 

Be your own best friend

Imagine you're chatting with your best friend and she's telling you about a recent problem at work.  How do you react? Would you tell her she's a stupid idiot? A failure? Would you turn away in disgust, convinced there must be "something wrong with her"? Of course you wouldn't. You probably wouldn't say those things to someone you dislike, let alone your best friend (and even if you did say those things to your best friend, it certainly wouldn't be a help to her.

When it comes to your best friend, you love and accept her, you appreciate all her amazing qualities and importantly, you're on her side. Think about how you'd speak to your best friend the next time you catch yourself giving yourself a hard time. Support yourself, point out your own strengths and be kind to yourself. In his book about cognitive behavioural therapy, Feeling Good, David Burns suggests putting pen to paper and "answering back" to self-critical thoughts in a rational and kind way, as if you were talking to a good friend.

Pan for gold

What we seek out, we tend to find. I noticed this recently when I was looking to buy some new running shoes. I started to see running shoes everywhere; on billboards, in magazines, on other people. I hadn't noticed them at all before but since I'd decided to seek them out, they were "popping out" at me everywhere.

Use this principle to your advantage. At the end of the day, pan for gold. Write down three things you did well that day, three things you like about yourself and three things you're looking forward to. Once you decide to seek these things out, you'll find you notice more things to appreciate about yourself in your everyday life too. 

Remember that being kind brings out the best in yourself

The rationale behind giving ourselves a hard time is almost always; ''if I punish myself, feel guilty enough or criticise myself enough, I will achieve better results next time''. It's our mind's way of trying to make sure we learn from mistakes and get better.

However, one study showed that this approach can backfire. Self-criticism was found to have the opposite effect by demotivating the study participants, while self-compassion improved motivation to change, learn and get better. 

This really reminds me of school, where I had one very critical and overly serious teacher who used to give us all a hard time. Unsurprisingly, few of us enjoyed her class nor did very well. Another teacher used to motivate us with praise, point out our strengths and encourage us. He built us up and inspired us with positivity. Unsurprisingly, we all loved his classes, wanted to learn and got good marks. A kinder approach will bring out the best in you.

Value yourself as a human being

Developing more self-compassion can have a huge impact on how we feel. Dr. Kristen Neff of suggests that by developing more kindness for ourselves we can be calmer and happier.

As human beings we are fallible by nature; we all make mistakes, we all do things we wish we hadn't. No human being is perfect, but each of us is valuable beyond measure and that value doesn't change no matter what our life circumstances, what we look like or what we do.

By reminding ourselves of our common humanity and being gentle with ourselves, we move away from shame and self-blame and can deal with the ups and down of life with more calmness and grace.

Share this article


Stylist Team