When people set goals for themselves, health-related or otherwise, they often do so from a place of self-judgment. They are disappointed with themselves for what they perceive as their failure—perhaps gaining too much weight, or not getting that promotion—and they resolve to make a change in order to redeem themselves.
This mentality is often reinforced by our culture. We hear things like “no pain, no gain” and watch shows like “The Biggest Loser.” We are fed the idea that by being tough enough on ourselves, we’ll be able to overcome our failures and achieve success.
But what if the opposite were true?
What if LOVING ourselves, not JUDGING ourselves, led to greater success and better health?
Well, I have good news for you: research backs this up! That’s right: studies have indicated that loving yourself can have health benefits, both physical and mental.
Moreover, research shows that people are more motivated by self-compassion than by self-criticism.
Where Does Your Motivation Come From?
Self-criticism and judgment certainly can be a motivator, particularly in the beginning. Think about it: you get a bad review at work, and you start to think badly of yourself. In response, you decide you’re going to improve your performance so that you can in turn feel good about yourself. It should work—right? It might. But what is also likely to happen is that you, being a human, don’t do it perfectly. You slip up somewhere—you wake up late one morning, or you forget to turn in a project on time. This failure then reinforces your belief about yourself: that you’re not good enough, that you in fact are a failure, that you can’t get things right. And so you double down and beat yourself up some more, and maybe you give up on your goal.
But what if you had started from a different perspective? What if, when you received that bad review, you took a moment to be compassionate to yourself? Instead of beating yourself up, you accepted that you are an imperfect person—but also acknowledged that you are inherently good and worthy. And what if you then resolved to improve, not from a place of self-judgment, but from a place of self-love?
This seemingly small switch can make all the difference in the world. When you inevitably slip up along the way, instead of berating yourself, you would give yourself compassion. You could see the setback as a learning opportunity, instead of a sign of total failure. And you could continue to improve, taking small steps toward your goal and not giving up each time you didn’t do something perfectly.
This research shows that “being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing.”
When we approach our goals from a state of safety and relaxation, rather than from a state of stress, we can better focus our energy on making positive changes.
The Positive Health Effects of Self-Compassion
Beyond providing greater motivation for achieving your goals, being kind to yourself has a host of other health benefits.
People who practice self-compassion have been found to have higher parasympathetic activity, which leads to better stress reduction and emotional regulation. Studies have also shown a link between self-compassion and lower levels of anxiety and depression, as well as better immune function. And unsurprisingly, people who show themselves compassion are also happier than those who don’t.
Love Yourself Into Better Health
As an integrative counselor, I wholeheartedly believe in approaching health and wellness from a place of self-love. My goal is to help you achieve health in mind and body, and that starts with showing yourself kindness, love and compassion.
Want to get started? Sign up for my waitlist here.
The content found on Integrative Counseling and Nutrition Consulting platform is not intended to be a substitute for professional therapeutic advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your psychiatrist, therapist or other qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition.