We see the word “gentle” as an adjective when it comes to different skincare items, detergents, baby products, tissues, etc. – Being gentle means that the item is not harsh and is safe for sensitive skin and people. “Gentle” implies that an extra layer of care and compassion is given. Unlike being harsh or rough, being gentle means putting in the extra effort to be more considerate. 

We should always be gentle with ourselves! Being harsh or mean to ourselves does not do us any favors. Constantly taking part in self-criticism can cause harmful effects on our mental and physical well-being. Studies show that it can even play a role in people having eating disorders, anxiety, or depression, just to name a few.

Why Being Gentle Can Be Challenging for Some

You may have heard the term “be gentle with yourself” and not know exactly what it means. To me, being gentle with myself means that I am caring for each part of myself – body and mind. Being gentle with yourself means that you’ll give yourself grace in hard times and know that it is okay to mess up. You’ll do things like:

  • Respect your feelings and needs 

  • Validate your emotions and know that you are enough

  • Allow yourself to feel what you feel (without harsh judgment)

  • Practice self-compassion and forgiveness

You can be vulnerable when you allow yourself to feel the way you’re feeling instead of disregarding it. Many people do not find it easy to be vulnerable – they cringe at the thought of opening up (even if it’s only to themselves). Many people have suppressed their feelings because they don’t want to let themselves or others down. They may have high expectations and get mad when they mess up or make mistakes. These people often fall into the category of people-pleasers or perfectionists. 

People pleasers are people who often put the needs of others first. People pleasers will often help others to the detriment of themselves. These people may take on loads of responsibility even though they already have so much to do themselves. They find it hard to say no and fear disappointing people. 

Perfectionists want everything to be, as the name suggests, perfect! Perfectionists don’t like settling for anything less than immaculate quality. When they mess up or make mistakes, it is hard for them to show themselves compassion.

Why You Should Be Gentle With Yourself

Here’s the short answer: You should try to be gentle with yourself because you deserve it!

Being harsh and mean to ourselves only hurts us. Some people may think that tough love will make them stronger, but it doesn’t allow them to embrace their feelings and heal. Sometimes, life can get hard. There are rough times that we go through, and instead of shaming ourselves, we should be gentle and show grace.

How to be Gentle with Yourself

Prioritize Your Needs

As people pleasers or perfectionists often do, they put the needs and expectations of others before their own. Being gentle with yourself allows you to tap into your inner needs and wants. It can also allow you to set boundaries for yourself and with others. 

For example, when you already feel stressed, you can allow yourself to put your oxygen mask on before assisting others to do the same. Also, it can help you realize that sometimes, as the phrase goes, “done is better than perfect.” You need to release the hold that perfectionism has on you – not everything will be perfect in life, and that is okay! As long as you are trying your best, that’s all that matters! 

Validate Your Emotions

Be gentle with your emotions – allow yourself to acknowledge them and know that it is okay to feel them. You may be someone who feels like being vulnerable makes you weaker – this is not true! It takes a very strong person to be open about how they think and feel. 

You can healthily express your emotions through journaling. Writing and journal prompts help us note our feelings and explore our thoughts. You can also validate and explore your feelings by talking with a therapist. A therapist can help you navigate your emotions, be kinder to yourself, and develop tools to cope in healthy ways.

Physically be Gentle with Yourself

All of us have different love languages. The various love languages include:

  • Words of affirmation

  • Physical touch

  • Quality time

  • Receiving gifts

  • Acts of service

You may have a love language that involves acts of service, but your partner prefers words of affirmation. The same way your partner deserves to feel love, you do too! One way to show yourself love is through physical touch. 

Think of a box with a label that reads “Fragile” on it. When you see this box, you know to care for the item and move it more gently than you usually would. In times of hardship, think of yourself as this box. Be extra careful in the way you carry yourself and handle your body. 

Don’t be too harsh on yourself, or, like the fragile item in the box, you might cause damage. 

You can be physically gentle with yourself by doing yoga or stretching your body so it feels relieved and de-stressed. You can also wear clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in. Take a bubble bath, get a massage, and do a face mask – these are all ways to show yourself love through physical touch and activities.

Positive Affirmations and Thoughts

A big part of being gentle is speaking kindly to yourself. Our words have power! One way to talk warmly to ourselves is through positive affirmations. Read my other article here to learn more about positive affirmations and shadow work. 

Lean on Support

In tough times, it is helpful to turn to your loved ones for support. They can help you by providing advice, comfort, and laughter to your days. Being gentle with yourself helps you realize that you are worthy of help and that receiving help doesn’t make you weaker! 

When you are going through a challenging period, spend time with someone who makes your life better. Do something together that makes you both feel recharged, relaxed, or happy.

Plant the Seeds of Gentleness

We all like receiving gifts, right? (especially if it’s your favorite type of love language). Give yourself a genuinely meaningful gift through your gentleness. When you show yourself kindness and softness, you will help yourself heal and grow. 

Remember: Plants grow best when given the proper nutrients, warmth, and space. Allow yourself to thrive like a plant waiting to bloom!

Jackie Caputo, LMFT in Woodland Hills, CA | Therapy for Anxiety and Depression in Woodland Hills

About the Author

Jackie Caputo is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides therapy in Woodland Hills, CA. She also provides online therapy in California to individuals throughout the state.