When we have friends who are going through difficult times we seem to have no trouble showing them love, understanding, and acceptance. So how come when we’re struggling we are so quick to cut ourselves down with blame, negativity, and shame? Self compassion is all about treating yourself how you would treat a friend: turning that love, understanding, and acceptance inward.

Self compassion plays a role in improving your physical health and fitness partly because confidence is strongly correlated with achievement. The idea of self efficacy is all about how the stronger your belief that you can accomplish your goals is, the better your chances of success are. Here are some ways to foster self efficacy:

1. Set realistic expectations: Aim for smaller, achievable changes at first, because reaching these small goals will increase your self-confidence: the more goals you achieve, the more feelings of success you get! Build yourself up to larger challenges, because starting with lofty goals that you’re not ready for is setting yourself up for disappointment, which will just hurt your confidence.

2. Recognize every success: Stay confident and positive along your fitness journey by celebrating every accomplishment, no matter how small! Every small positive choice adds up and helps your body and brain assimilate the new habits, so be proud of every step you take. These achievements could be making a healthy lunch at home instead of eating out, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or drinking more water than usual throughout your day. Rewarding yourself doesn’t always have to mean shopping or eating, so reward yourself by taking a moment to recognize the progress you’re making and be proud of yourself!

3. Maintain a learning mindset: Approach all of your challenges with an open mind, and if things don’t work out like you planned, accept that setbacks happen to everyone. Reflect on your experience without judging yourself, and try to learn from it.

A key to self acceptance is self care, which is paying attention to and supporting one’s own physical and mental health. For many people, self care is one of the first things that falls to the wayside in times of stress, especially for caregivers. When you’re busy taking care of others, whether it be at home or work, it can feel like taking care of yourself shouldn’t be a priority, but you can’t pour from an empty cup! If you’re in a better state of mind from taking the time and energy to care for yourself, the people around you will benefit from your attention even more. Some self care staples are to eat well, be active, calm your mind, and sleep well. All of these will help comfort and energize both your body and your spirit.

As you work your way through your journey to better health, remember that it is all about progress, not perfection! Balance and flexibility are essential for long term success, so don’t take an all or nothing approach to getting healthy. Every small step you take counts, and learn to appreciate each one. Change happens from a place of self acceptance, so focus on the positive, and start being your own cheerleader! Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.

~ Bryn Pritchard


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