broken glass with sun shining through

We all have our destructive habits. It’s easiest to think about external habits like smoking, unhealthy eating, or lack of exercise. More than 20 years ago, I was walking with a very good friend, Sean. We saw a group of people smoking cigarettes and Sean commented that those people must hate themselves.

We also have habits that can destroy us from the inside.

It was an impromptu comment, yet, I want to recognize that self-loathing and lack of acceptance isn’t just visible externally. There are also internally destructive habits that our minds create, that we torture ourselves with.

Every single day, I talk with people who feel sincere compassion and forgiveness for others, BUT they can’t apply it to themselves. They struggle with accepting that they are worthy or good enough. Sound familiar?

Yes, you can change your destructive habits!

Living with and listening to that inner critic voice is a habit. We become habituated to listening to those critical thoughts (even giving that inner critic a bull horn), but there are ways to make a shift.

One critical first step is through self-love. You can roll your eyes if you want, but I am serious here!

Try Maitri – love that originates from and for your self.

The first step to self-love is self-acceptance, it is the foundation. Maitri (pronounced My-Tree) is the concept that acceptance and compassion for others originates from the acceptance and compassion that we’ve cultivated for ourselves.

Self-acceptance is not about letting yourself off the hook, giving yourself a pass, ignoring your problems, or denying mistakes. It is simply acknowledging and working with where you are, in this moment, as a growing and learning human. It’s accepting that like everyone else, you’re not perfect, which is normal!

From this point of acknowledgement and acceptance, you can learn to quiet the inner critic with self-compassion. Self-compassion is different than self-acceptance. Self-compassion means being as kind and encouraging to yourself, as you would be for a very good friend. Forgive yourself for mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Don’t let that inner voice beat you up for another second!

The final step is to practice self-love. I think of self-love as unconditionally embracing, appreciating, valuing and owning our self worth. Again, this doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook or overindulging. It’s prioritizing and taking caring of your own needs, just as much as you do for your friends and loved ones.

What does this look like in practice?

Self-love is about acknowledging where you are right now, quieting that inner critic voice, and genuinely caring for your real needs as you move forward with life. It’s about being your own friend.

Rick Hanson, PhD sums it up well when he says, “When we treat others with respect and caring the best in them usually comes out. Much the same would happen if we treated ourselves the same way.”

This will look different for each of you. It might mean getting that massage to care for your aching body, or it might be signing up for a course that will help you realize a goal, or it might be cooking more so you can eat at home instead of picking up takeout.

Learn more and try it out!

I invite you to embrace the concept of Maitri and share it with the people in your life. Say a daily affirmation, start a conversation, read an article, listen to a talk. Check out these resources to learn more about Maitri.

  • Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, has dedicated her life to spreading the word about self-acceptance and compassion.
  • Academics like Kristen Neff have made self-compassion the focus of her career.
Categories: Resources


Glenn · February 5, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Carly, thank you for posting this. It totally resonates with me. It is so simple, yet so difficult. I know we all need to do this in order to step into our best selves. How can we help others without this? You rock!!!

    Carly Ebenstein · February 6, 2019 at 5:27 am

    Glenn, I totally agree that practicing Self-Love is so simple, yet difficult. One of the many paradoxes of life. Still, when we see how critical it is for ourselves and those we love, it helps focus our attention to the fact that it’s really a necessary component. Thank you for your comment.

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