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Go Easy on Yourself

Image by anieto2k (license).

.“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.”
Edith Schaeffer

One common way to get things done, to achieve and to motivate yourself is to be kind of hard on yourself. To set very high standards for yourself that you want to stick to every time.

Now, this way of going about things can indeed help you to achieve big things in your life and to get things done every week. But it comes at a price. Three negative things about taking this position towards yourself are:

  • You erode your self-esteem. As you achieve things you tend to tear down your own self-esteem at the same time. So you tend to feel less and less like your deserve success. And frustration and being angry can become more and more common as you fail to reach those very high standards.
  • You suck the fun and excitement out of things. A hard or harsh attitude towards yourself has a tendency to make things that used to be fun and exciting less and less so. This attitude does instead over time turn those things into just work that you may start to dread because you fear failure or not meeting your high standards.
  • You’ll perform worse and worse. As your self-esteem goes down you’ll feel less motivated to tackle the tasks and projects in your life. As the fun and excitement goes out of many of the things you do procrastination tends to become more and more common. Plus, the work you put in becomes less energetic and focused and so the results aren’t that good anymore either.

I used to be harder and harsher towards myself. It did help in some ways. But it wasn’t worth it.

So what can you do if you feel that you are maybe too hard on yourself or you beat yourself up quite often? Here’s what helped me to become kinder towards myself, to get more of the most important things done and to feel better about my life.

Remind yourself of the negative effects of this attitude.

To just remind myself of how damaging being hard on myself has been is a very effective way to replace my old habit with going easier on myself.

Go for more human and smarter standards for yourself.

Movies, books and the people around you may push standards on you that are just pure fantasy or some kind of perfect dream. But life is life, not a fantasy or dream and to set such extremely high standards that no one can live up to just leads to what you may see as failure and disappointment in yourself and in your life.

Instead, relax a bit and accept that everything and everyone has flaws and things don’t always go as planned. Accept that you can still improve things but they will never be perfect. And realize that you won’t be rejected if things or you aren’t perfect. At least not by reasonably well-balanced human beings, like most people actually are in reality.

Celebrate your small steps of progress.

If you are in the habit of only celebrating when you reach a big milestone or a perfect moment or two then you may lose your motivation and feel like you are never happy or arriving where you want to be.

So make a habit of celebrating your small daily and weekly successes too.

This will help you to keep the soul-tiring monotony away and help you to stay enthusiastic instead of getting more and more unmotivated until you may even consider quitting halfway to that big milestone.

Focus on the positive and helpful feedback in mistakes and failures.

It is very common to be hard on yourself when you make a mistake or fail. But it is also a very destructive habit because it can magnify one such event into something that makes you feel depressed for weeks or makes you quit altogether.

So when you are hard on yourself for a failure or mistake then relax a bit and go a bit easier on yourself. Remind yourself of why this is a much better strategy to keep the motivation and self-esteem up. Ask yourself:

  • What can I learn from this situation?
  • How can I use what I learn from this to not make the same mistake again but to move forward in a better and smarter way?

Then, after you have just been with those negative emotions you got from the failure or mistake until they diminish a bit and you have figured out what you can learn focus on moving forward again.

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  • Daphne Gray-Grant August 2, 2012, 4:59 pm

    This is a really good point — especially for the people I work with — writers! Writers are so fast to criticize themselves — for not working harder, faster AND for the product they produce: it’s not good enough, it’s not interesting enough, no one is going to want to read it.

    Please, writers, go easy on yourselves!!!

  • Bob August 2, 2012, 7:30 pm

    Thanks Man great stuff !!

  • Samantha Gallagher August 2, 2012, 8:58 pm

    Right after my husband was killed on duty by a drunk driver, I was in a daze. I didn’t feel that I could accomplish anything, because I didn’t feel like I was actually living in reality.

    I had to set very small goals for myself and congratulate myself when I accomplished them. I’ve continued to do this two years later to live in the moment and feel good about myself.

  • Dennis Do August 3, 2012, 7:02 am

    I find that when we are too hard on ourselves, we are less inclined to give ourselves a pat on the back when we do accomplish something right. We may even rationalize nonsense things like how it should of been done right the first time or etc.

    Definitely give yourself credit where credit is due.

  • Success August 3, 2012, 7:30 pm

    Very True!

  • Frankie John August 4, 2012, 6:42 pm

    Great article, thanks Man! :)

  • Kary August 4, 2012, 11:02 pm

    Your post continue to inspire me. Thank you Henrick!

  • Anjali August 5, 2012, 9:13 am


  • Dana Lightman August 5, 2012, 3:25 pm

    This is a message we all need to hear again and again. With so many negative images, messages, and beliefs sticking to us like Velcro, it’s nearly impossible to hold on to a stance of self-acceptance, appreciation and love. Yet, how different life becomes when I give up old worn-out beliefs of self-doubt and perfectionism, when I stop comparing myself to others, and instead focus on the positive aspects of my present moment and appreciate and love who I am, warts and all!

  • Louise at The Intentional Workplace August 7, 2012, 1:58 am

    I think this may be the core issue most of us face. It’s never enough. We’re either comparing ourselves to others or harshly judging ourselves. I’ve often said that if we heard someone else talking to another person the way we talk to ourselves, we’d be turned off.
    Self-compassion is not self-indulgent (as so many cultures teach) it’s self-care and self-respect.

    Good topic (and love the quote)

  • Stefan Parmark August 7, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Thanks for reminding me to go easy on myself! Just like you I blog about self improvement. I read advice on the internet that you had to post articles regularly and also frequently. I was very inspired doing this in the beginning, but after a while it felt like a job. Like you say, it took the fun out of it.

    Now I focus on doing what I feel is fun right now, and to not pressure myself. I feel I have got the joy back in blogging. I am also more efficient, because there is no longer a feeling of guilt for not achieving enough. I do my best, and it is important that I have fun doing it.

    You mention one very important thing, and this is rewarding ourselves. We often forget that. When we have achieved something, even small things, we should always reward ourselves. This, more than anything else, gives us a feeling of having achieved something, and that we are worth a reward. Nowadays I always make sure to have some reward, depending on my effort. If I have been busy during the day, I at least sit down in my sofa for a while and have an icecream, before going to bed.

    Good that you also mention the lessons we get. “What can I learn from this?” We are taught that we shouldn’t fail. But that prevents us from reaching our full potential. We can only grow by trying, and allowing ourselves to fail. Like Robert Kiyosaky put it: “Fail harder. You cannot be successful without failure.”. When you realise the truth in that, you open up a new world of possibilities to you.

    Thanks again for a very inspiring article! I look forward to the next.

  • Ankit Gulgulia August 18, 2012, 10:43 am

    Mr. Henrik , I congratulate you for such a well written article. Further, i would like to add that just by adopting this attitude it shall infuse more creativity and passion towards the work and personal life. Go Easy , Go Relaxed with underlying secret fact that ” you can’t get out of life alive”.

  • Deep August 25, 2012, 9:02 am

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post. Its very very important to to go easy with ourselves, but at times given the lessons we have learned throughout our life, it become hard to go easy.

    Some time due to per pressure or pressure from the external world.

  • Lindsey September 1, 2012, 6:37 pm

    Great post! This topic is especially relevant to me this week because I felt like I made a mistake at work and I’m being extremely hard on myself to the point of not being able to get it out of my head! It’s effecting the things that I do and my attitude towards everything in general. I have even had many people tell me it’s not my fault, but I still can’t help but take responsibility. Thank you for your ideas, I will be working on them and just take this as a lesson learned and move on.