Strategies for Personal Change

Give Yourself a Break: 13 Tips For Self-Care

Exercise: Raise your hand if you’ve recently engaged in any of the following activities:

  • Called someone a moron, a jerk, or an idiot?
  • Screamed at someone for being stupid?
  • Looked at someone and said, “I can’t stand the sight of you!”?
  • Pushed someone down then kicked them over and over and over?

What’s that, you say? You never treat people that way? Okay. Let me ask the question differently. Raise your hand if you’ve done any of the following to yourself:

  • Called yourself names
  • Yelled at yourself for being ‘stupid’
  • Expressed disgust with some aspect of yourself
  • Kicked yourself repeatedly while you were down

Hmm. I notice that most of your hands are now in the air. Welcome to being a Human Being – you live in judgment much of the time, and nobody can beat you up nearly as well as you can.

My Story

Just before I started my vacation, I wrapped up several coaching contracts. As is my practice, I sent out a request for feedback. In short order I received back six evaluations, and if I were to convert them to a grade, my ‘report card’ would have read like this: A, A, A-, A+, A, C. On a 4-point scale, my GPA would be 3.7, which is fabulous, right?

Moreover, I had expected a poor assessment from the one client, who had consistently resisted the coaching. Yet still, I found myself sliding into a funk. The soundtrack in my head started playing “you’re a bad coach” over and again. Oooh, I hate it when my inner Gremlin starts that conversation. It’s not true, yet still I listen. Down went my mood.

You ever had an experience like mine – living in negative self-assessment? If you have, here are some tips that might help you move more quickly out of negativity the next time your Gremlin shows up.

The 13 Principles of Happiness: Self-Care Edition

    1. Become Positively Self-ish
      In Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, she offers a lovely exercise for taking your own oxygen. On a piece of paper write, “I love myself, therefore _____” and fill in that blank with a positive belief or something you do that takes care of you. Complete the sentence as many times as you like. Keep that list where you can access it when your Gremlin gets loud.
    2. Live Your Values
      Ask yourself, “Did I violate one of my core values?” If yes, take action to bring your behavior back into line with what you say is important. If, on the other hand, your assessment is based on other people’s standards, just let it go — it’s not yours!
    3. Live for Life, not Stuff
      Ask yourself, “Will this matter five minutes from now? Five months from now? Five years from now?” If not, why beat yourself up about it?
    4. Be Early
      Plan ahead. Create an affirmation and a body posture that you know will pull you out of a funk. Practice both every day while looking in the mirror, e.g. while in an open, confident stance say, “I am a gift to the world.”
    5. Build Reserves
      We tend to dwell on the negative and dismiss the positive. Stop that! Instead, build a store of good news about you. Collect those complimentary notes and emails into a single file. When you are having a bad day, pull out that file and notice how your negativity melts into gratitude.
    6. Tolerate Nothing
      Like mushrooms, moldy thoughts grow best in manure-filled spaces. Take time to toss out some of your old assessments – think of it as a mental version of cleaning out your closets, getting rid of the items that no longer fit or that don’t make you feel beautiful.
    7. Choose To Respond
      Negative self-talk can wear you down physically. So practice a physical response that will pull you out of your funk. Stand tall. Take one or two breaths into your deep belly. And smile. The world will more likely smile back.
    8. Stimulate Your Development
      If where you are right now (physically, mentally, emotionally) is not serving you, change environments! Get some fresh air. Chat with a more positive person. Shift to a different task. Or simply stand and walk around your chair three times. When you return to your task, you’ll carry it more lightly.
    9. Pay Attention
Notice which side of an issue you give the most attention to. 7% unemployment also means 93% are employed. One flaw in something means 99% is OK. Good AND bad things will happen, and your stress will decrease when you look harder for what’s right versus what’s wrong.
  1. Simplify
    Personal standards are important, yet holding too many make it impossible for you to declare “success.” Most people can hold no more than 5-7 priorities before they start to break down. So decide the few things that are important; let go of the others.
  2. Speak the Truth
    Speak Facts rather than Assessments. “I failed to meet the deadline” is a fact; “I am a failure” is the assessment you create. In my situation, above, the ‘story’ was, “I’m a bad coach” when the fact was simply, “one client was not satisfied.” Let the truth set you free from beating yourself up.
  3. Focus on Today
    Be your own best cheerleader. When you notice yourself saying, “I’ll never…(make this work, figure it out, etc)” you are beating yourself up by imagining future failure. Replace that with, “I am giving it my best today, and I know I’ll eventually get it right.”
  4. Be Authentic
    Laugh at yourself. Forgive yourself when you do mess up. Most of all, practice saying, “I am not perfect…AND I am okay with that.”

And a bonus 14th tip: Get Back on the Horse

Even as my Gremlin was beating me up for being a “bad coach,” I attended a coaching conference and was pulled into a Laser Coaching exercise. This activity, much like a “speed dating” event, creates a rapid series of coaching conversations as people move down a line every few minutes.

Much to my astonishment, I helped two of my clients identify significant breakdowns in just two minutes!If I’d not been willing to ‘try, try again’ my Gremlin would have won the argument.

When you fail to meet your own or other’s expectations, get back in the saddle and try it again. Failure, my friend, is a powerful path to learning.

I am totally adequate at all times. I accept myself and create peace in my mind and heart. ~Louise Hay



Jim Smith, PCC, is The Executive Happiness Coach®. He is an international speaker, executive and life coach, and author. He provides his clients with inspiration and practical tools to live a happier life and build more positive work cultures. He is the author of Happiness At The Speed of Life: 13 Powerful Strategies for Finding Happiness at Home and On The Job, and has touched the lives of over 10,000 people worldwide through his work on Positive Emotion and Leadership. You can connect with Jim at

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