Seeking Motivation? Be Kind to Yourself

Self-compassion helps us to form healthy habits 


By Paul Bolger. Nano Physiotherapy

Here are two different approaches to life – which one do you think is more likely to lead to healthy habits and fulfilment?


  • I strive for perfection.
  • I am very strict with myself. I’m not satisfied unless my highest expectations are met.
  • Failure is unacceptable.


  • I accept that I am an imperfect person – like everybody else.
  • I treat myself with kindness and respect; the way you might treat a dear friend.
  • Failures are expected and I do not take them personally.

Some of you might be surprised to find out that the second example tends to lead to greater success. While self-interest and ambitious striving may bring short-term gains, research shows us that self-compassion is powerful in helping us to maintain healthy habits and feel fulfilled more often.

Cultivate Compassion

To have self-compassion is to treat ourselves the way we treat a respected friend – with kindness, respect, honesty and encouragement.

Self-criticism is linked to higher levels of depression, while self-compassion is linked to greater wellbeing, motivation and healthier outcomes.

If you, like many others, tend often to be critical of yourself, you can increase your ability to be compassionate towards yourself – like anything in life, attention and consistent effort makes a real difference.

Try This

  • Recall a recent setback (no matter how large or small); what emotions do you notice? Feel this in your body. What words and tone did you use to talk to yourself? How did you respond to this (did it motivate you or bring you down)?
  • Now think of someone you respect – if the same thing happened to them, how would you respond? What would you say to them and how would you say it? How would you like them to perceive the setback?

A person with deep self-compassion will treat themselves no differently to how they treat a loved one that they respect. This doesn’t mean that they would “let themselves off the hook” – it does not mean that they accept potentially harmful behaviour towards themselves or others. It does not mean lying back and accepting a situation without doing something about it.

It does mean, however, that we respond to ourselves, our actions, our behaviours, with kindness and compassion.

Setbacks, instead of stopping us in our tracks, are inevitable twists and turns in our journey. Feelings of low motivation aren’t a sign that we are failures – they are normal fluctuations in our mood, energy and confidence. Taking a rest isn’t a sign that we are weak or lack anything as people – perhaps some recuperation and support is required before we get back on our way again.

Start Today

Now that you know all of this, try the above practice. There is so much more information and fantastic resources available (including guided practices) at

If you struggle with severe self-criticism that has an impact on your life and wellbeing, then you could benefit from telling your GP or a psychologically informed therapist, such as a registered psychologist.

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