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To make all your relationships stronger, you need to be kinder to yourself. Jennifer Taitz, a clinical psychologist and the author of How to Be Single and Happy, explains why that’s not one bit hokey—and how to master the art. (Related: Tips On How to Turn Your Stress Into Positive Energy)
Shape: You say that most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. Why is that?
Taitz: I think we believe self-judgment will push us to do better. But in reality, self-compassion is motivating. Studies show it helps you make more progress toward your goals than being critical. Also, by building a healthier relationship with yourself, you’ll feel more independent and fulfilled overall, and that sense of wellness will improve your relationships with others. You’ll make plans with friends because you care about them and enjoy their company, not because you’re looking for them to make you feel better.
Shape: How can we learn to be kinder?
Taitz: Start your day with a loving-kindness meditation, when you tell yourself, “May I be happy. May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” Then direct the statements toward others in your life. When you’re in a positive mindset, you act positively and feel more connected to yourself and others.
During the day, replace judgmental thoughts with factual thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking, “I’m such an idiot. I totally botched that,” pause, then say, “Next time, it would be helpful to...” You don’t have to force yourself to think positive. Just drop the unhelpful mind traps. (Try these 4 positive affirmations that can snap you out of any funk.)
Shape: What else can we do to build our inner strength?
Taitz: Treat yourself well—slow down, eat a delicious, healthy meal, read a good book. Acting as if you matter creates the belief that you are worthy. (These 15-minute meals turn solo dinners into a treat.)
I also suggest linking your daily to-dos to your long-term values. Next time you feel overwhelmed, take a step back to remember what matters to you beyond your schedule. If you’re having lunch with a friend who needs help, remind yourself how this aligns you with the life you want to live—by being supportive, say. People attuned to their purpose tend to feel happier and more resilient.