When I paid attention to what I said to myself I was shocked, and dismal. “Whoa. Did I really just say that?” I wondered after berating myself for a silly, insignificant mistake.

I’m my own worst critic and up until most recently I thought this was productive, and even a badge of honor; in reality this is a misconception with consequences. Towards the end of a recent conversation with the wonderful Heather Ireland RMT, her closing statement hit me like a punch to the face … in a good way.

“People need to have more self-compassion,” she went on to explain in addition to why being overly critical can be damaging.

Beating ourselves up for tiny mistakes, and even failures, is not the answer. We incorrectly think being hard on ourselves and expecting perfection is productive, but it has the opposite effect. Upon examination and reflection of my personal lack of self-compassion, I’ve learned this valuable lesson. Scolding yourself for every mistake can leave you feeling as if you’re never good enough. Like you’re always falling short. It can hold you back from taking risks and exploring the potential that lies just beyond your comfort zone.

Don’t be overly critical. Don’t expect nothing less than perfection.

You can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re constantly tearing yourself down.

Have more compassion for yourself.

Maybe you made a mistake at work.

Maybe you overindulged at a party.

Maybe you’ve gained weight.

Maybe you missed an entire week of workouts.

Maybe you made a pot of coffee but forgot to put the carafe in the unit and a pool of coffee bled across your kitchen floor (admittedly I’ve done this – twice).

Regardless of the situation the answer is the same: respond with compassion. After all, it’s ridiculous to think we could go our entire lives without messing up, and being afraid of failure may keep you “safe” but it certainly won’t allow you to live a life with purpose, passion, and joy.

The next time you mess up, don’t denigrate yourself. Learn whatever lesson you can from the experience and use that new knowledge to become a better version of yourself.

Life is not a road we travel that’s perfect smooth and void of blemishes. This road has potholes, road kill, speed bumps, and requires an occasional U turn. When we approach, or unexpectedly stumble upon, these obstacles we must understand it’s part of the journey. You’re human. You’re going to make mistakes. I’m going to make (more!) mistakes. It happens. And it’s okay.

When it comes to health and fitness please remember that it should make you feel good about yourself, build you up, reduce your stress, and make your life better. Exercise is not punishment for eating and you don’t have to earn your food. Never chastise yourself for making less than optimal food choices or missing a workout.

Only when we respond with compassion can we truly become the best version of ourselves. Only then can we make choices that propel us forward.

Respond more frequently with self compassion. And let’s extend this courtesy to others as well.

Begin by being hyper aware of what you say to yourself over the next few days. If you catch yourself being overly critical, stop immediately and change the conversation. Only by consistently practicing self-compassion can that eventually become your go-to response.

With Love From the Trench Kitchen,