Go Easy on Yourself: 4 Simple Tips to Help You Do What Matters in a Self-Kind Way

A woman with closed eyes with a sunrise in the background.

“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 accomplish 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 tear your self-esteem down. 

As you achieve things you tend to tear down your own self-esteem at the same time.

So you feel less and less like you 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 take the harder and harsher path. 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 are 4 tips that helped me to become kinder towards myself, to get more of the most important things done and to feel better about myself and my life.

1. Remind yourself of the negative effects of this attitude.

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

2. 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.

3. Focus on the positive and helpful feedback in setbacks.

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 days or 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.

And ask yourself:

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

4. Celebrate your small steps of forward.

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.


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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Great!!

  • Great article and in these times when we have heaps of time to reflect, perhaps a new approach needs to be taken.
    It would be interesting to find out how many years it took for you to trade off high standards for increased self esteem.
    I think it is a right of passage (that they need to suffer for their standards) that self improvement gurus impose on their followers bec they had such a hard time, then their followers also need to do this.
    However, transformation and real growth come from lived experience and you will only know to:
    * remind yourself of the negative effects of this attitude
    * or go for smarter more achievable human goals and
    * focus on the positive and
    * celebrate the small wins… when you have lived.
    We tend not to do those things bec we do not recognise and acknowledge the small wins. We want the big wins to magically appear instantly.
    The only thing I would add is to be grateful that we have the opportunity to be alive and choose how we live and where we live. Setting unrealistic goals does indeed lower self esteem bec no one – except those who are prepared to trade off – achieves these and is happy. I personally prefer contentment and acceptance.

  • Amazing post, thanx for sharing this article. I am truly motivated by your post.
    Thanx again!!!

  • Great article, Henrik.
    Below is a little explanation of a quote by Edith Schaeffer regarding perfection.
    With regard to being a perfectionist, there are two sides of a same coin-
    • When you are a strict perfectionist, you cannot enjoy the results even when they are great.
    • But when you don’t strive for a decent level of perfection in your work, you cannot love your work and yourself.
    So, it is important to strike a healthy balance between these two extremes.

    Yes, when you tend to be harsh on yourself to achieve more, in the long run, you will do more harm to yourself than good.
    Basically, you need to go with the flow, that is, when you sit to work, just get completely immersed in it and forget about time and by this way, you can accomplish your tasks without being too harsh on yourself.

    You should be kind to yourself, because you spend the most of the time in your life with yourself.

    Yes, you should also lower your expectations to be happy and it is good to always remember that something is better than nothing, by remembering this you can be cheerful even if you did a poor job.

    You are right Henrik, celebrating your small steps of forward is important, for that you need to keep tiny goals which can be easily accomplished and by which you can easily feel a sense of accomplishment.

  • Great advice.. it’s good to be reminded once in a while.. it’s easy to forget and get lost in the madness.. thank you ?

  • Suzanne

    Perfectionism makes you lazy. You can’t mop the kitchen because the counter is dirty. Visa versa so nothing gets done. When a clean floor motivates you to clean the counter. Anything blesses your family.

  • Nitheesh Reddy Pala

    It’s like magic… I am just diverting from my usual routine tasks from my big target and I was feeling horrible and depressed about it. Now I realized if I myself am not happy with myself then how can I make others happy.

  • Rich Andersen

    Great Article Henrik!
    The timing was perfect, and this serves as a good reminder to me to celebrate the little wins daily or weekly! Thanks again, and Have a Great Day!

  • Yaya child care grandma

    This is a great post at just the right time for me. Thank you, I needed the reminder. I see my granddaughter with this same issue at such a young age just 20 months old. No wonder it’s a hard habit to change. I’ve been celebrating each of her tiny steps but she hasn’t really celebrated with me her achievements. She’s trying so hard to do everything she sees adults in her life do. Due to the pandemic she only has her younger cousin to play with so far. I’m thinking this pandemic isolation for young children will raise a generation with this habit of being hard on themselves trying to grow up too fast. When she was born I quit a toxic workplace where my boss called me a “junkyard dog” instead of saying I was determined and threatened to pull his gun on me when I brought up a contract discrepancy that was overfunded by $400k. I am happily watching my granddaughter daily. I definitely relate to your posts especially this one. Second grandkid on the way! Thank you

  • Very Nice explain

  • Emmanuel Abiud

    Very Helpful article, Sir.
    Thanks so much!

    Emmanuel from Tanzania

  • really a beautiful article thanks for sharing.

  • Very informative. Keep up the good efforts.

  • So glad that I came across your blog! Sending some positive Buddha vibe to you from Taiwan.

  • Srinivas S

    Wow, what a wonderful article and good insight article.Thanks!