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I just finished a coaching session with a client whose biggest barrier to enjoyment of life is the cruelty with which he judges himself.
Even when he’s doing everything right and living with integrity, he still somehow finds a way to make himself feel like a loser who always fails and is somehow worse than other people.
In our session, we focused on breaking the value of Compassion down into practical behavioural steps. This is because learning to be compassionate with yourself must start with changing what you do and say, rather than hoping your thoughts and feelings will change.
First you change the behaviour, then the thoughts and feelings will follow. And even if they don’t, at least you’ll be treating yourself well and so experience the healing and rewards from doing so.
This is the list we came up with, I hope it helps you all find a more practical way to be kinder to yourself, even if you don’t “feel it”.
Acknowledge struggles as human
When you’re struggling to act “right”, and relapse or slip or fail, acknowledge that this is just the normal human experience. Recognise that this happens to everyone, and that it was to be expected with whatever childhood, conditioning, upbringing, trauma, and recent experiences you’ve had. Write down the struggles you’re having and notice that nothing on the list is unique to you.
Lower expectations to a reasonable level
If you’re asking something of yourself that you can’t achieve, then it’s unreasonable by definition. You can only reasonably ask yourself to achieve things that actually happen. When you fail to meet your expectations, change the expectations to meet your current level of ability and strength rather than trying to do more than you can right now. It doesn’t matter if your friends or past self did more, you can’t right now and that’s all that matters.
If it hurts, take care of it. Compassion is about prioritizing healing. If you have physical pain, see a doctor or physio. If you have emotional pain, see a therapist or talk to a friend. If you’re struggling with mental confusion, go for a walk and do something easier.
Replace punishments with kindness
When you notice that you’re being cruel to yourself, like negative self talk or hurting yourself physically, STOP IT. Catch this behaviour, say a quiet little “Enough!” to yourself, and immediately do something nice for yourself. Have a hot bath, call a good friend, watch your favourite movie, eat a sneaky cookie. Reprogram yourself to catch and replace punishments with acts of kindness.
Focus on positives
Don’t interpret this to mean “positive thinking” or that other crap where you pretend to see the world more positively than you actually do. Instead, list all your real strengths, achievements, and successes. Self-punishment nearly always includes a dismissal of evidence for things you’ve done well; an unfair and inaccurate self-measurement. Remind yourself that you’ve done most things to a survival standard at least, and some things you’re actually proud of. Look at it this way: if you’re in a situation where you have the time and capacity to read this article, then your life isn’t going too badly, so you must be doing something right.
Respect your mood
Whatever you’re feeling, that’s where you’re at. If you’re tired, then limit yourself to low energy activities. If you’re grumpy, do something you enjoy that isn’t annoying or difficult. If you’re excited, share it with someone. Do something within the appropriate behavioural range for your current emotion, rather than trying to change the emotion.
Slow down and try to relax
Self loathing usually comes with stress: rushing and agitation — a kind of urgency to get somewhere else. Instead, resist this urge and slow the fuck down. Literally, move slowly, like you’re under water. Take care with speaking slowly and thinking things through. If nothing else, this will lower your cortisol (stress) hormones, as well as make it less likely that you add to your worries with more rushed fuck ups.
Instead of trying to fix what you’ve done wrong or what’s faulty about you, write down the perfectly reasonable explanations for why it all happened. Acknowledge what led up to it and how this combined with your personality to create the inevitable result. This isn’t to plan how to prevent things going wrong or fix your mistakes, and it’s certainly not to point the blame, it’s just to understand yourself, in the same way you forgive a dog for chewing up your shoes because that’s just what dogs do. Whatever you did makes sense if you can just see that it makes sense.
Challenge negative self-judgments
When that voice in your head starts listing all the ways that you suck, don’t argue with it or reason with it, and certainly don’t take what it’s saying as truth. Instead, literally tell it to shut up, like it’s an annoying stranger interrupting your important phone call. Don’t let it finish a sentence. As soon as you’ve noticed it’s started, be assertive and tell it to piss off. Then find something better to focus on. Do this as often as needed, even if that’s multiple times per minute.
Work with reality
Ultimately, compassion is about accepting reality and accepting your humanity and personal limitations. Only set goals that will definitely be accomplished. Only work with the resources you have and don’t wish for more. Only do what can reasonably be done with the time (and energy) available and cross everything else off the list. Take it easy on yourself. Pressure doesn’t cure self-loathing, and it’s not even productive anyway.
I’m sure there’s much more to compassion than this list — feel free to add your ideas in the comments below!
Yeah, here comes the pitch…
You can do all this on your own.
Through trial and error, books, courses and online content, you can figure it out slowly piece by piece over time if you dedicate yourself to it and are willing to fail often and get uncomfortable in order to achieve relationship mastery and build strong self confidence.
You can work directly with me in your corner for a short period of time and achieve the same results in months that would take you YEARS on your own (or your money back!).
That’s what my confidence coaching is really all about. I accelerate your progress significantly by ensuring you:
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It took me about 7-10 years to figure this stuff out on my own. It takes my average coaching client only about 3-6 months to achieve a level of mastery that leaves them able to continue coaching themselves to further success while feeling absolutely certain that they’re on the right path (proven by the results they get).
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Thanks for reading
Hope to speak to you soon
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