Happy Valentines Day 2017 to all. One of the first people we have to love before we can ever love someone else is ourselves. For some of us, it’s hard to do. If we’re in the public spotlight we can’t avoid critics comments. But for most of us, we don’t need an outside critic, we hear one loud and clear in our brains. Professionals know they have to squelch the internal criticism if they’re going to succeed. Tennis player Serena Williams said, “I’ve had to deal with a lot of labels: too sexy, too focused on tennis, too mean… too strong?’ What does that mean?  I don’t know.  Just means I’m stronger than you.”

Research tells us that women, unlike their male counterparts, are their own worst critics. In fact, self-criticism is really self-sabotage. Our self-worth suffers as we blame ourselves for failures, or attribute our success to other people or circumstances. It’s a key reason women are the last ones to ask for help or even a raise at work.

When you stay focused on everything that’s wrong with yourself confidence decreases and you build fear rather than confidence. When you doubt yourself your resilience diminishes and you are less likely to learn from your failures. Stop beating yourself up.

Here’s four ideas to help you change your thinking:

Stop talking negatively to yourself.  Watch what’s coming out of your mouth – I’m so stupid – I’m an idiot! Change it to, “Ok – I had a stumble… no big deal, it could’ve happened to anyone.”

Write a note to yourself.  Harness your emotions for a second and unleash it in a note rather than on yourself. Send yourself an apology – why you made the wrong decision and how you won’t let it happen again. Getting it on paper takes the air out of the balloon. Be a friend to yourself and not a critic. Studies have shown that when we write down our emotions we actually learn how to control them.

Create a line or even a Bible verse that resonates and soothes your soul. Recognize there is a wound that has to be medicated. “Oops!, I did it again”, “the sun will come out tomorrow” are iconic ones. I like scripture verses that bring truth and soul soothing bandages. One of my favorites is, Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you”.

Keep a gratitude list.  What are the things you are truly thankful for in your life? It sounds simple but when depression and self-doubt hit, remembering how God has blessed you brings perspective and balance. Happiness is a choice so choose to surround yourself with the joy and goodness of God. I also like to listen to music that lifts my soul and allows me to put my eyes on Jesus and His grace and forgiveness. It banishes those self-critics in my head and brings hope and peace.