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How to Speak to Yourself Compassionately When You “Slip Up” with Drinking

How to Speak to Yourself Compassionately When You “Slip Up” with Drinking


Experts say that if you want to develop healthier habits and improve your life, you should be kinder to yourself. But, how exactly do you do that? If all you know is self-criticism, a kind inner voice isn’t going to pop up out of nowhere. 

But changing how you speak to yourself can completely change how you respond to difficult situations and move forward. For example, if you normally beat yourself up and feel ashamed, or guilty after a slip-up, chances are you can spiral and get stuck in a rut. 

But with self-compassion, you can develop acceptance and resilience, and learn new coping methods

So, how do you learn to speak to yourself more compassionately?

Well, it starts with understanding what’s keeping you stuck, while creating better thoughts to help move you forward.

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Why Do I “Slip Up”?

The real question is: “Why do I expect myself to be perfect?” 

Logically, we know there’s no such thing as perfection, but emotionally we still strive for it. And it makes sense, we’ve been trained since childhood to aim for 100%, to look and act perfectly. The drive for perfection in our society is fierce (and makes for a multi-billion dollar beauty industry). 

So next time you slip up, remind yourself you’re only human, living in a high-strung society, and it’s totally normal (and even robots malfunction!). Pitfalls are a part of life, so working to reduce their risks and preparing for how you’ll respond is the best way to go. 

What Makes a Slip-up More Likely

There are steps we can take to reduce the chances of a slip-up, such as avoiding things like: 

1) Unrealistic Goals and Expectations

Setting overly ambitious goals isn’t as motivating as you might think. It might sound exciting, but if it’s not manageable, it leads to a loss of self-esteem. 

Progress is meant to be slow. Give yourself time to learn and adapt without feeling discouraged. Choose realistic and motivating goals you can stick to, like just tracking your drinks for one weekend — and that’s it. Remember, the smaller the better, because these are the building blocks of healthier habits

2) Stress and Emotional Triggers

Stress causes fatigue, which makes falling back into old patterns all the more likely (we like what’s known and easy, even if it doesn’t work for us). So if you haven’t prepared for how you’ll manage life’s stressors, you’re going to have a harder time. 

Think about ways you can regularly reduce your stress levels, like fun physical activity, talking to friends, or regular creative time (think about joining an art class for extra accountability, for example). Plus, think long-term — a therapist or support group might help you learn new ways of coping and give an added sense of support. 

3) Self-Criticism

Sara Blakely, the owner of Spanx, said every night at the dinner table her father would ask her, “What did you fail at today?” The reason for this question wasn’t meant to undermine her but to encourage her to try new things, and to accept failure as part of the process. 

We have to let ourselves fail. More importantly, we have to let ourselves be okay with failing. 

Even as adults, we always have the opportunity to reframe how we think about things. Catching our negative self-talk is the first step. From there, we can pause and think about how we want to start speaking to ourselves. After all, if we want different results, we have to do something different. 

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Why You Need to Develop Self-Compassion

If you can accept that you’re going to fail, you’re going to have a much easier time moving forward. 

Because the real slippery slope comes when we start to doubt and blame ourselves. That’s how negative spirals begin: our brains start screaming for a reward when we feel guilty or ashamed. And of course, the most accessible rewards are usually food or alcohol. So if you can avoid going down that spiral of self-criticism, you can help lessen the urges and cravings for a reward to feel better, preventing more slip-ups from happening. 

By challenging your negative voice, you start to open the door to another pathway — one that’s more forgiving and understanding. So instead of feeling weighed down or guilty because you’re not meeting certain standards or expectations, you can start to notice little moments of growth. 

A slip-up doesn’t define your worth or potential for success. But, you’ll only see that when you step out of the negative self-talk and into compassion. 

How to Start Being More Compassionate With Yourself

Here’s how to start transforming negative self-talk: 

1) Observe and Catch

The first step is becoming aware of just how often we criticize ourselves — without any judgment attached. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But at least recognizing it and thinking about why that voice is there and where it came from might help you slow down. Remember, it’s mostly there because of training from society and emotionally unaware parents. You weren’t born being critical of yourself, it’s something you learned, and can unlearn, too!

2) Stay With the Uncomfortable Emotion

Usually, our first reaction to an uncomfortable emotion is to try and get rid of it. We numb or distract ourselves because we don’t know how to feel safe with negative emotions. 

It takes patience, but setting a timer to give yourself a minute to just experience the feeling without trying to escape it is the first step. This can be through deep breaths, noticing where you feel it in your body, and talking to yourself gently, reminding yourself it’s normal and healthy to feel strong negative emotions. 

Put your hands where you feel the discomfort in your body, and tell yourself that you are safe and that you are there for yourself. By doing this, you’re teaching your body that it can handle negative emotions. With time and practice, you can learn to trust yourself to feel safe in any emotion, knowing that it will pass and that you will be okay. 

3) Create a Non-judgmental Voice

Maybe you have a critical voice that’s always around (most of us do), but we can work on creating another voice — the compassionate one. It’s going to take time for it to become your main voice, but daily practice will help. Here are some phrases to think about putting into your own words to start practicing:

25 Compassionate Phrases

1) It’s okay to make mistakes…I’m learning…

2) I forgive myself for… I forgive them for… 

3) With time, I can learn to react differently in the future…

4) There’s always another opportunity… 

5) I am not defined by what I might think is a mistake… 

6) I don’t have to be perfect, perfection is impossible…

7) It’s okay to say no, even if I disappoint people…

8) I can learn to start putting my needs first…

9) I’m allowed to say no without giving an explanation or feeling guilty…

10) It’s okay to ask for support when I need it… 

11) I can learn to start accepting myself… 

12) I am not defined by my past…

13) A slip-up can be an opportunity to learn, it doesn’t have to define my progress…

14) I’m not alone, others are going through the same thing, I can always reach out for support…

15) I can learn better ways to cope…

16) I can let other people help me, I don’t have to do this alone…

17) Something I’ve learned is… 

18) I can let progress go slowly and practice self-care when things don’t go as planned…

19) I’m proud of myself for… 

20) I showed courage by…

21) I recognize I am trying to… 

22) I made progress by… 

23) I’ve taken some initiative by…

24) I showed resilience by… 

25) I did/will do something kind for myself today, and that is…

Instead of just saying, I’m going to be kinder to myself, create a daily self-compassion routine. 

You could start with one compassionate phrase every morning and night while you brush your teeth (sticky mirror notes are a good reminder). You can also pick a few minutes to journal first thing in the morning, writing three compassionate things to yourself. For example, choose one forgiving, one accepting, and one encouraging phrase daily. 

4) Calm Your Nervous System

If your emotions are heightened and you can’t stop the negative self-talk, that’s okay. Have a list ready of ideas that help you stop spiraling, such as:

  • Change your environment — walk in green space, go to the gym, etc. 
  • Do something creative with your hands — cooking, baking, art, etc.
  • Move your body — put on a song to dance and release the energy, workout video, yoga, walk, bike, etc
  • Mindful activities — journal, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, etc. 
  • Socialize — see friendly faces (video call or meet a friend for a walk), etc. 

Choosing an activity to calm yourself is a form of self-compassion, and as you learn what works, it will start to become a habit to turn towards that activity when you’re upset. In the end, this will reduce physical stress and allow you to make better choices from a place of calm. 

5) Seek Connections and Support

Often, when we’re struggling we tend to feel ashamed and go inwards. We hide our true emotions or isolate ourselves. This leads to worsening symptoms, so instead, push yourself to reach out to someone for support. 

Even if you don’t have family or friends to turn to, support and kindness are still out there. Therapy, online or in-person support groups, or even signing up for hobbies can help you meet new people and create a connection.

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How Sunnyside Can Help

With Sunnyside, you’re part of a community of thousands going through the exact same thing as you. Not only will you engage with others who are happy to share what they’ve learned, but you can also get individualized support from coaches for extra accountability. 

The app helps you decide which goals are realistic and lets you easily track and observe your behavior. With daily notifications, you can also get self-compassion reminders. 

By speaking to yourself compassionately, you force yourself to slow down and remind yourself that setbacks are part of the process — and that they don’t equal total failure.

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