Let’s be honest: No matter how often other people tell us to be kind to ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to listen to their advice. It’s easy to show patience to others when they’re going through a tough life transition, but our patience runs thin when our own lives get turned upside down. Instead, we beat ourselves up, critique our every move, and expect ourselves to overcome the impossible. And, frankly, this can be exhausting.
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly, one of the main reasons why we have such a hard time being kind to ourselves is because most of us grew up with impatient parents. “As a result, a child often grows up feeling very rushed and fearful of a combination of ‘not being enough,’ ‘not doing enough,’ ‘not achieving enough quickly enough,’ or ‘not doing things perfectly.’ And such patterns become increasing hardwired as we move through life,” she tells HelloGiggles.
If you don’t have your parents to blame, you can also chalk it up to our hustle culture. “Today’s achievement-driven world often creates internal pressures that give rise to chronic impatience. As an individual faces transitional periods—such as moving to a new job—the increased level of stress often triggers and energizes unhealthy patterns,” says Dr. Manly. “Thus, just when an individual most needs more patience and TLC, certain unconscious, hardwired negative patterns often move in to create greater stress and anxiety.”
Between these two factors, it can sometimes feel nearly impossible to be patient with ourselves. How exactly are we supposed to navigate the ebbs and flows of life when everyone puts so much pressure on themselves and each other to be perfect on a daily basis? The thing is, if we don’t learn how to treat ourselves with kindness, we can run our self-esteem into the ground, which can subconsciously create unhealthy patterns if we’re not careful.
Luckily, there’s a way to overcome these negative thought patterns. We spoked with Dr. Manly to get her perspective to see how we can learn to be kinder and more patient with ourselves. Because while it will take time to get there, it’s worth it in the end.
HelloGiggles (HG): What exactly does it mean to be patient with yourself in the first place?
Dr. Carla Marie Manly (CMM): Being patient means that one is tolerant and enduring in nature. Being patient with oneself is much like raising a little child. One must be patient with a child’s mistakes and errors—yet use the mistakes as an opportunity to help the child learn and grow so that the same mistake can be avoided in the future. An attitude of gentle support and caring guidance improves learning and self-esteem. However, if we are impatient or blaming when a child makes a mistake, that child learns to be fearful of making mistakes and may become either highly perfectionistic or even filled with despair. As adults, it is vital that we have this same patient attitude—we never outgrow the need for gentle, supportive guidance. In fact, no matter one’s age, optimal learning occurs when the individual is NOT under high stress.
HG: Why is it so important to be patient with yourself in the first place?
CMM: When we are impatient with ourselves, we create stressful thoughts and life patterns. If this becomes a constant pattern, we can create a life that is filled with stress and anxiety. When this occurs, the body becomes flooded with elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline—both of which can contribute to physical health issues, sleep problems, and mental health concerns. On the other hand, when we are patient with ourselves, we tend to feel much more at peace internally and externally. A patient attitude tends to create greater self-worth, self-love, and inner stability.
HG: What are some tips you would suggest for people to use so they can learn to become more patient with themselves? And why?
CMM: Learning to be patient with oneself takes practice, particularly if the person tends to be highly self-critical. One key tip is to learn to journal about being impatient. The more you non-judgmentally journal about being impatient, the more you will learn to be aware of the harsh, relentless inner voice that creates impatience. Another tip is to learn to listen for the impatient voice in one’s head. When that harsh, intolerant voice pipes up, it is important to pause to take a few deep breaths. If the negative voice is persistent, it’s helpful to simply ask the negative voice to “go away.” Given the busy pace of our chaotic world, it can be very helpful to create a “patience” mantra that feels supportive and uplifting. As an example, you might say to yourself, “I deserve to be gentle with myself. I deserve to treat myself with gentle TLC.” Positive visualizations can be incredibly helpful. When you are feeling impatient with yourself, you might think of the patience you would give to a small child and give that same patience to yourself.
HG: If we’re learning to finally be patient with ourselves, how can we teach others to do the same for us, too?
CMM: When others are being impatient with us, it’s important for us to learn to address this kindly and clearly. For example, we can say to a partner who is fearful of being late for a party, “I’m feeling a bit stressed right now. I know we want to be on time, but when I feel stressed, I actually seem to go slower out of anxiety. Please be patient with me as I get ready. I will go as mindfully fast as I can.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.