Stop it!  That’s my Friend you are Beating Up!

Consider the Most Important Relationship in your Life

If I asked you what is the most enduring and important of ALL the relationships in our lives……. What would you answer?  Like many, I would previously have answered some important figure in my life at that developmental stage such as my parents, best friend, boyfriend, partner, children, and so on. The fact that this is changeable through our lifespan is one of the signs that this is problematic for one simple reason.  Every single one of these people will leave our lives at some point.  Well, that is unless we leave them first.

Sorry to sound sad and morbid.  I know this is an evocative thing to say,  but it is true.  Can I first clarify that by ‘leaving’ I mean a variety of things.  I do not mean that they all get fed up with us and decide they don’t like us anymore.  I am simply referring to the concept of the impermanence of everything.  People exit our lives through choice, separation, relocation, divorce, change in circumstances, fallouts, losing touch, death, and so on.  We have all probably experienced friendships which have outgrown themselves, partners who choose to go their separate ways, or worse, being dumped (I hate that word), or losing loved ones through death.  It is the reality of life that we continue to move on and nothing stays the same.

A Change in Perspective?

I propose that pinning all your sense of safety, security, feelings of love and belonging on one external person means that when that person is no longer in your life for any reason or period of time, you are more likely to fall apart, and it is harder to adapt.  It also places a whole lot of pressure on any relationship if you rely on getting all of your needs for love met by this one mortal being.  They are after all only human, with their own unique set of needs, and naturally, they will make mistakes.  They will most likely let you down at some point whether they mean to or not.

I do not say this to be pessimistic.  Anyone who knows me would recognise that I am a ‘glass is half full’ kind of gal.  Or if I am practising gratitude ‘I am just happy to have a glass in the first place’.  What I am trying to point out is that to err is human.  If we rely on others to be the provider of our happiness, then this means we externalise our own happiness and do not have full ownership of it.  We essentially say that ‘it is your job to make me happy’, and ‘if I am not happy then it must be the other person’s deficiency’.  We then have very little control over our own contentment.

What Does This Mean?

I am in no way suggesting that you never develop close relationships with others, or depend on people when you need it.  This would be pointless and harmful to you in the long run.  I make this point to simply emphasise that there is one relationship you may not have considered which is with you for your entire life, and has the biggest impact on your self-esteem, feelings of being accepted, loved and cared for.  Therefore maybe deserving of a good chunk of your attention.  Have you guessed it yet?

From the moment we are born to the moment we die, the one person who is guaranteed to ALWAYS be there is yourself! 

This is why, in my opinion, it is essential to make a committed decision to work at developing a healthier relationship with yourself.  As a Psychologist, I fully understand that for many people their relationship with themselves can be a complicated and toxic one, much like that of an abusive partner.  We are taught not to accept abuse from the people we love, but why do we accept or even sometimes encourage it from ourselves?

Cheesy as it sounds, and please do not roll your eyes and click away at this stage, but self-love and self-compassion are the two most important things you can gift to yourself.  I will share a story with you to make this point further.


A True Story

I had a very good friend who berated himself regularly and was incredibly self-critical.  One night I remember having a conversation, and I shared with him that he is being bullied.  He looked at me quite confused and responded with an amused ‘Huh?’.  I however was completely serious and shared that he has been one of my closest friends for years, and if I ever saw anyone being this mean to him I would feel the desire to plot and scheme to defeat the enemy who was hurting my dear friend.  But I was really stuck not knowing what to do, as the very person bullying him was himself. 

His face fell in recognition of my words and I could see tears filling his eyes.  I then instantly felt bad for bringing this up, because we were on a fun weekend away.  So I lightened the mood a little by saying ‘it’s not like I can beat you up to make you stop?’ which did make him laugh.  I also shared with him that I so wish he could see himself through my eyes and really appreciate all of the things that make him truly amazing.

I share this story as a beckon of hope.  Since having this intimate moment, my friend used this as one of the catalysts to make more of an effort to be kinder to himself and start a journey of not only trying to like himself more but even love himself.  I cannot believe his transformation since this initial conversation.  He no longer berates himself, certainly not to the same extent, he treats himself with more respect, is more forgiving of his apparent flaws, and accepting of who he is as a person.  He seems happier, and I could not be prouder of the bravery and hard work this has taken.  I know that he feels he still has a long way to go, but he has committed to the journey, and that is what truly matters.


Loving Myself – that is Cheesy Hippy Stuff Clare!

Yes, I hear you on this one!  The term ‘love yourself’ is banded around quite a bit, and can often evoke a gagging response for some.  I hold my hands up to feeling this way myself years ago.  However, my response was often to break down in hilarious childish laughter at the ridiculousness of this very concept.  This is because I confused it with resignation, or thinking you are the best and not wanting to develop or better yourself in any way.  What I didn’t realise is that this entirely misses the point.

Self-love is about developing an unconditional love for yourself, which means that ‘no matter what, I still love you’.  It doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to mistakes.  It means being able to forgive your mistakes, still love yourself, accept you are human, and figure out what you can learn from your experiences.

The other common misconception is that loving yourself means that you will turn into a person who is conceded and ‘full of themselves’.  Again this is highly unlikely for a number of reasons.  Loving yourself simply means that you consider your own needs, care for yourself, use more supportive and encouraging self-talk, and find value in your being.

I can only think of positive outcomes of self-love such as improved self-esteem, self-efficacy (belief in your abilities) and confidence.  It does not make you more prone to becoming an egotistical megalomaniac who thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread!  That would be quite an amazing jump if you are the type of person who already suffers from low self-esteem.



“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress”  Sophia Bush


How Do I Build a More Loving and Compassionate Relationship with Myself?

I am hoping by this stage I have persuaded you of the benefits of developing a healthier and more caring relationship with yourself.  So below are some thoughts and tips on how to start putting this into practice.  I am not saying this is easy.  I have been through exactly the same process as my friend in the story, so know from experience this does not happen overnight.  But all it takes is a commitment and intention to love and be forgiving of yourself.  Like learning any new skill, the key is practice, practice, practice.


  • Low self-esteem can make this journey more challenging, because you may not feel good enough to be kind to yourself. But I would counter this by saying – Since when do we have to DESERVE kindness?!  Surely everyone deserves some love and compassion in this world.  Even if you don’t feel deserving of the love, just give it to yourself anyway and see what happens.
  • Forgive your apparent flaws – see them as a part of what makes you who you are. Would you be you without them?  Commit to trying to change if they are unhelpful to you, not because it is someone else’s expectation you have adopted.
  • Make changes out of love for yourself – if you decide that you want to commit to a change then try and do so with the intention of a loving act and not one of hating who you are. (For example ‘I choose to go to the gym and get fit because I love my body and want it to be healthy’, as opposed to ‘I hate the way my body looks and need to force myself to go to the gym to change it so I can then like myself more’)
  • Be your own cheerleader – think about your internal dialogue and how you speak to yourself. If you wouldn’t speak that way to a close friend that you love, then do not speak to yourself this way either.  Try saying compassionate and encouraging statements to yourself daily.  This is not just about changing your mindset and affirmations.  Neuropsychology teaches us of the neuroplasticity of the brain, meaning that daily practice will adapt your brain chemistry so it gets easier to be more compassionate to yourself.
  • What would my friend say – if you struggle with knowing how to be more loving to yourself, then perhaps imagine a kind friend who would want to support you and what they might say for inspiration?
  • Catch your critic – be loving of your critic too. It is after all only trying to keep you safe or encourage you to make changes.  But, as research and experience tell us, ‘the stick approach’ is not the most efficient at motivating people to make lasting changes.  Don’t get me wrong it can work, but it erodes self-esteem in the process.
  • Recognise your worth – there are so many areas of life where you add real value to the world and to others, even if you do not yet realise this. Perhaps keep a list daily of the things you appreciate about yourself, what you like about yourself, even ask close friends or family that you trust what they most value about you for ideas.
  • Parent yourself – I know that I am instinctively the most compassionate version of myself when I am with my kids…. most of the time….when my patience hasn’t run out! I use this mode to my advantage when I catch myself being self-critical and judgemental.  I take a breath, recognise and acknowledge my critic and instead act as a nurturing mother to myself.  Giving the same care, love and compassion I would offer to my own children.
  • Use a role model – if the parenting one above does not work for you, then think of the most compassionate person you can imagine (this can be someone you know, or a role model who is famous, or even a fictional character). Embody their essence and what makes them so loving and compassionate.  Mimicking others, to begin with, is a helpful way of practising a skill if you feel unsure at the start.
  • Remember that it is not about always being nice to yourself and letting yourself off the hook – sometimes being more loving to yourself also means denying impulses and desires, because you know that what you are denying yourself is something that is unhealthy or takes you away from the life you truly want to be living.  Figure out what the true need is behind the desire and find creative ways of meeting this need in a healthier way.  For example your desire for chocolate could really stem from a need for comfort, soothing, or just plain hunger.  There are other ways to meet these needs.
  • Have an accountability buddy – talking to a close friend who will challenge your self-critical talk and help to model raising you up rather than beating you down can be invaluable. We live in a culture where berating yourself is a form of humour and almost expected in some social circles.  To break this cycle try and surround yourself with like-minded people to avoid being dragged back into self-loathing.
  • Try daily self-compassionate meditations – there are many great apps out there with guided meditations. So all you need to do is sit and listen.  ‘InSight Timer’ is one I highly recommend.
  • Ask yourself what you need – a part of self-love is learning to attend to your own needs more. Recognise that because you are in fact human you do have needs too, and deserve to have your needs met.
  • Speak to a professional – sometimes this stuff is just too difficult to do on our own, and we all need a helping hand or listening ear at different stages in our life. If you have chronic low self-esteem or just cannot engage in self-love as much as you would like, then consider if seeking support with this could be beneficial to you.  It may help to explore what is holding you back.


Having a better relationship with yourself offers the greatest emotional security there is.  If you can love yourself, then you are not dependent on another person’s love for your own happiness.  Another person’s love will simply add to this as a wonderful bonus.  This person also does not then feel the weight of responsibility for your happiness and can focus on their own contentment as a result.

One of the biggest advantages of developing a kinder and more loving relationship with yourself is that you will begin to thrive in many areas of your life as a result.  You will feel happier and more content in general.  You will have a positive impact on the people around you.  You will inadvertently model this healthy internal relationship to your family, friends, children, colleagues, and so on, who are then more likely to adopt this as a result.  This is the ripple effect at play again!



“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked.  Try approving of yourself and see what happens”  Louise Hay