Obsessing Over Your Mistakes? Be Kind to Yourself in a 5:1 Ratio


This semester, I teach one class in one building, then run to a second class in a second building, then run to a third class in a third building. When I first saw my schedule, I thought I was going to be in hell this semester. Except, there’s a little bit of heaven in every hellish situation.

Because I run from class to class to class, I have little time to do what I usually do: obsess.

Do you ever have a conversation and then immediately obsess over how you could have said something better?

Do you ever do something and then immediately think of all the ways you could have done it better?

Yeah, me too. That’s my entire life. Except this semester, as I run from place to place to place, I don’t have much time to do it. And then, by the end of the day, I’m so tired that I’ve forgotten most of what I said anyway. And then I fall into bed.

And you know what? It’s been so good for me.

achievement-3772064__340John Gottman is a famous relationship researcher who has found that, in the best relationships, there is a 5:1 ratio of compliments to criticisms.

I try my best to treat other people really well. I treat my students well and I try with my friends and family to be kind as much as possible.

And right now, I don’t have a partner, so it’s just me and me. I’m seeing that that relationship could use a better ratio. I’m noticing that, when I have a lot of time on my hands, I spend it being mean to myself.

Reviewing my life and pointing out flaws. Reviewing my past and thinking I could have done all of it, every moment of it, better.

Do you ever sit alone and beat yourself up for the past? How does it feel? Yeah. Makes you want a glass of wine, huh?

It’s hard to accept that the past is over and we can’t change it. So… now what?

We change. We evolve. We learn and we grow. It’s called evolution, and we can help our own evolution or beat ourselves up for it.

swallow-3584915_960_720I’m learning to help my own evolution with a simple tool: I’m being nice to myself in a 5:1 ratio. I’m being in a relationship with myself that has a 5:1 ratio. I’m going to love myself like crazy in a 5:1 ratio.

Since developing a mindfulness and meditation practice, I can catch myself being mean. I can feel it and recognize it. When I start telling myself that I should do more and be better and achieve more, I feel it. And then I stop.

  • What are 5 things that you did well today?
  • What are 5 things that you appreciate about who you are?
  • What are 5 things that your friends would say about you?
  • What are 5 things you are proud of?
  • What are 5 things that you did to take care of yourself today?
  • What are 5 things that you are really good at?
  • What are 5 things that you like about the way you look?

Beautiful, gorgeous, hard on yourself reader: The most important relationship of your life is the one between you and you. Be kind in a 5:1 ratio. Don’t give your critical inner voice so much air time. Crowd it out in a 5:1 ratio. Be supportive to yourself in a 5:1 ratio. Be encouraging in a 5:1 ratio. Be the best partner you could ever want for you.

You know what? I’m glad I wrote this blog. I’m proud that I’m willing to be vulnerable and share my struggles. I like that I write this blog thinking of you. I appreciate that I try my best to be a good person to others. I do the best I can with the tools I have.

What are 5 things you appreciate about yourself today? Practice that ratio.

Loving you out there. In a 5:1 ratio.


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