The kindest thing we can do for ourselves


A few months ago I was out for a run and feeling pretty frustrated.

Why? Well just over a year ago I was running really well. I’d been doing CrossFit for about 18 months and was feeling fit and strong. So I started doing some Saturday morning Parkruns and before I knew it, my 5km time had come right down. Almost to where it was during my triathlon days.

I was pumped! Then, just as I was about to call my running coach to say ‘time for a marathon program’, I got injured. I irritated my sciatic nerve and that injury has plagued me ever since.

So, back to a few months ago. Every run was un-fun. Mainly because I was forcing my protesting body to try and run as fast as I was last year. If on any given day, my body (or mind) didn’t feel like trying to go that fast, I didn’t go for a run.

The result?

Instead of running 5+ times a week, I was running maybe once a week. Some weeks I wasn’t running at all.

Then, one day, it hit me.

This mindset where I’d only go for a run if I felt I was going to run as fast as I was last year when I was super-fit? That was perfectionism raising its head.

And, given this manifestation of perfectionism was impacting my life in a sub-optimal way, I had to do something about it. That’s when I reminded myself about the one big thing I discovered when writing Practical Perfection:

The best antidote for perfectionism is self-compassion – the ability to be kind to ourselves.

How could I be kind to myself in this situation?

I could give myself permission to run slowly.

I could choose to meet myself where I am right now instead of constantly looking ahead or behind me.

Such a simple thing.

And honestly, it’s made all the difference over the past few months.

If you’re finding yourself frustrated at where you’re at right now compared to where you’ve been in the past, maybe you need to extend yourself the same kindness 🙂


Comments 24

  1. Kelly, I’m so glad you are treating yourself kindly, as a friend and not an enemy. I had to tell myself that today at the track (as I was listening to the latest Straight & Curly!)… I was down on myself for pretty much the same reason, not being where I was at this point last year, due to some things. I was thinking of a client (I am a wedding photographer) and how hard she is on herself and that I wanted to just tell her to be kind to herself..which made me think about treating myself kindly 🙂
    Thanks for your posts AND the two podcasts! I feel I know you which is kinda creepy, but kinda awesome 🙂

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      Haha! I feel the same way about all the people in all the podcasts I listen to. So I feel really honoured that you let us in your ears and feel the same way too 🙂

  2. Thanks Kelly – just what I needed today. I think it is particularly relevant when dwelling on past achievements – mostly we are hard on ourselves (or I am) in relation to my future dreams and not getting as far/fast as we’d like. But comparing ourselves with where we’ve been before while sometimes motivating in considering what we’ve achieved, can be hard as we get older – eventually we won’t be able to do the physical things we’ve done before. And for me, in terms of my ‘corporate career’ going backward (LOL) I have to remind myself it’s because I’ve chosen/value something different, not because I’m less valuable.

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      Oh man – especially the physical things! I like to think my best physical achievements are ahead of me. But I also have to accept that maybe they’re not. because, as you noted, maybe I’ve chosen something else to focus on

  3. Oh I love this post. I’ve just gotten back from a gym session where I spent the whole time disappointed that I’m not as fit as I was before I had a baby. I’ll try to be kinder to myself x

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  4. It’s a constant lesson isn’t it? And although at times that can feel frustrating, flipping it to kindness again, isn’t it good how much growth and learning we have in life (my mantra at the moment – practice self compassion and assume the best intentions of others, especially those you love, unless proven otherwise). The second might seem off topic but I’m finding them related at the moment. ps – currently on the way to the airport – excited!

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  5. Kelly. I’m a 73 year old man. I’ve got 8 years of martial arts and 2 black belts behind me. Plus 35 years of workouts. Today, I use the Total Gym I’ve owned for 25 years and a small treadmill and some easy, slower routines. Some days I just walk, nothing more. And you’re absolutely right about being compassionate to yourself. That’s what I believe allows you to not only enjoy your life more, no matter how old or young you are; but it also helps you recognize when it is appropriate to be compassionate to others. I don’t want to preach, Kelly. I just want to congratulate you on recognizing a true basic of life at such an early age. I wish I had.

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  6. Hey Kelly. Thank you for this. Being kind to ourselves usually comes last, but over the past few years I’ve been applying some of that kindness to myself like you suggest. Now if only I can be kind to my writing self…🙃

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      I’ve been very unkind to my writing self this year! But I have let up on her a bit in recent months and *surprise* – she’s performed a lot better!

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  7. oh so true Kelly!
    always good to put theory into practice,
    i’m pretty kind to myself these days!
    I listen to my intuition and my body, also have compassion for the other’s struggle as well as my own!
    much love m:)X

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  8. Another great post that I needed to hear today Kelly. ” The best antidote for your perfectionism (Derick) is self-compassion – the ability to be kind to yourself.”

  9. Perfectionism is a huge issue for me, but I struggle on the self-compassion front. I sometimes overanalyse everything to death and am never sure if I’m using a reason (some legitimate reason I can’t exercise / read / write or do something), or if I’m making an excuse and legitimising it to myself! #argh

    1. A few thoughts on this one (because I too have struggled with the reasons vs excuses thing).

      The things that are important (like exercise and writing for example) – they need to be habits. ie something you set up your days or weeks for to do every day.

      Then – every day, you at least start. And then, if you’re doing it and really really don’t feel like continuing – then stop. But you only get to do that one day in a row. One day in a row – there’s a reason for not doing it. Two days in a row … it’s getting to be a new habit to NOT do that thing.

      Caveat: obviously there are things like illness or weird personal circumstances that can bump us off the habit train. It happens. When it does, don’t beat yourself up. Simply acknowledge it’s happened and then start again with re-establishing the habit.

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