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Stop Being Hard on Yourself: 5 Tips for Learning Life Lessons

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“When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~Viktor Frankl

I learned a big lesson this week. It’s been a lingering challenge that has popped up in many ways recently. Mostly it’s presented itself in other people, or rather, in the qualities of other people.

Over the last few months, I’ve been introduced to quite a few new acquaintances, and I’ve continuously come up against traits that I considered ugly, like arrogance, materialism, insecurity, and ignorance.

It really riled me up to the point that I felt a physical change in myself.

I interpreted their taste for expensive things as a sign that they were hiding behind material objects. I interpreted their obvious mask to the world as another hiding mechanism. And what I perceived as stupid life choices I thought were a form of escaping their real selves.

In essence, I felt that all of these traits were an attempt to cover up their own insecurities, for fear of not being accepted completely for who they are, who they really are.

Why were these people so…unaware?

It infuriated me.

Each time I was triggered by a person with these traits I would think to myself “Not this again. When will I finally be rid of this uncomfortable feeling?”

Then it hit me. Several times.

I realized that the traits I noticed in others were just a reflection of myself. The traits that really peeved me off were traits I did not accept within myself.

I also like to buy nice, expensive things sometimes. There are moments in my life where I wear a mask to not reveal all of myself. And in the past, I made some decisions to avoid what I was really feeling within.

This was shocking to me because it meant I was passing judgment, not just on the other person but also on myself. It meant that I was not accepting myself fully, completely, wholly.

And trust me, just accepting that fact was a lot to take in.

I’ve always thought myself to be a person with confidence and a great belief in myself. But apparently, there were a few more things that I needed to learn about loving and accepting myself.

No one is perfect. And we need to accept ourselves as we are, flaws and all.

As we go through life, challenges arise to help us keep growing. We’re human and we have layers. Just when we think we’ve learned something, life comes along and shows us there’s more.

Here are some tips that have helped me accept and grow with my most recent life lesson.

1. Don’t beat yourself up.

No matter how easy it is to say to yourself, “Why can’t you just get over this?” allow yourself the time to learn the lesson at your own pace. Challenges can hit a raw nerve within us. Sometimes we need to take it step by step and nurture ourselves in the process. Be nice and gentle to yourself!

2. Observe your thoughts and emotions.

Awareness is the first step in acknowledging any life challenge. How are you responding to a particular event, circumstance, or person? What are your initial feelings? And why are you feeling this way?

Asking yourself some important questions can help you understand why you are having such a profound response to something. Don’t censor yourself to sound like a good person. Be truthful. It’s the only way to find out what’s really beneath it all. 

3. Shift the focus back to you.

Our outer world is a reflection of what’s going on within us because we project our own thoughts and feelings onto other people and events. We give it our own meaning.

Remember, we can’t change other people, the past, or circumstances out of our control. All we can change is ourselves. Shift your focus back onto yourself and realize that you have the power to change your life.

4. Accept what you cannot change.

I know it’s easy to resist your circumstances, and blame other people and events. Sometimes we just have to accept it, breathe through it, and know that this is happening because it’s time for us to grow.

5. Celebrate your growth.

When you’ve learned the life lesson, celebrate! After all, you’ve just taken another step in evolving as a human being. Rejoice in the fact that you can handle whatever life throws at you and become a better person because of it.

Life is pretty amazing. We all hit a few road bumps along the way, but eventually the road gets smooth again. As long as we’re learning lessons as we go, there’s no reason we can’t sit back and enjoy.

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Avatar of Rachel Jessica Tan

About Rachel Jessica Tan

Rachel is a writer + actress + entrepreneur. She is the founder of PMU Productions, RJT CREATIVE and www.eatbeautiful.com.au . She’s a regular writer for Your Zen Life and www.racheljessicatan.com and is committed to living a beautiful life and inspiring others to do the same! Follow Rachel on Facebook & Twitter.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://risingdaily.com/ CJ Rising

    Helpful thoughts! I especially like the idea of not being too hard on yourself if you can’t get over a set back right away. Of course, I know it’s not healthy to stay in a negative space for too long, but sometimes you just need to let yourself be sad or disappointed (or whatever you are feeling) before you can move on. Sometimes I think all the talk about positivity makes us feel inadequate on our journey toward becoming our better selves if we are not positive all the time. It’s important to give ourselves time to heal in our own way.

  • Anil Tiwari

    great article to change the way of life to path of full of happiness and joy…

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks Anil! Glad you enjoyed it :)

    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Absolutely CJ!

    I sometimes get down because I’m not this zen master who doesn’t get affected by things at all. Of course as humans we need to take our own time and space to work through internal blocks and emotions. And it happens all in good time.

    Thanks for reading!
    Rachel X

  • Kim

    Thank you for writing this article. I really needed to be reminded that kindness to myself is something that should be non-negotiable. Also to tone down the quick judgement of others and do a bit of self reflection. :)

  • April Jorgensen

    I love what Dr Phil says “There’s something about THAT guy, that I don’t like about ME!”

  • Cam Conley

    love this article Sooooo true

  • lisaih

    Really needed to read this today with what is going on in my life. Thank you!

  • lisaih

    You said this perfectly! I certainly needed to hear that. Thanks.

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks Lisa! Glad you enjoyed the piece :)

    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks for reading Kim!

    It’s funny that all of these points are things we all know subconsciously, but sometimes we just need to remind ourselves to take action on them.

    It always makes for a more peaceful and calm experience :)

    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Haha..April I love that quote too!

    Everything changes when we turn it around to ourselves. And it sort of becomes funny in a way. I always laugh at myself when I have that realization.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks Cam! Glad you enjoyed it!

    Rachel X

  • Kiki

    Just got a divorce and it is a roller coaster of emotions from sadness, anger, rage, disappointment, etc. Days go by and am maintaining but then something just breaks down and I cannot stop belittling myself or feeling negatively toward my ex and being obsessive. The article brought out some things I do need to think about and work on.

  • Adriana

    This article could not have come at a better time. I will reread this whenever I start to fall into the dark hole of self-pity, judgment, and comparison. I am so happy to have stumbled on this site as it just seems to offer insightful information when I need it most. Thank you for sharing this piece!

  • Char

    Absolutely…it’s about Loving What Is and that includes ourselves for all we are. It’s imperative to our happiness. I don’t think we can be reminded of this enough, thanks Rachel, great message to spread. xxx

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks Adriana! I’m glad the article has brought you some insight!

    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Hi Kiki!

    I know how you feel – the end of any serious romantic relationships can be tough sometimes! Just know you’ll get through it. Just be kind to yourself. There’s a lesson in this experience for you :)

    Thanks for reading!
    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    :) Glad you liked it Char XX

  • Talya Price

    Oh my god this is the story of my life. I have been feeling this way and I had to finally accept myself the way I am. It is a steep learning curve to love yourself 100%. But it is not impossible. Thank you for this article. It has really made me think about my life.

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks for reading Tayla! It’s all a journey. And we learn to be better than we were yesterday! Really, that’s all it is :)

    Rachel X

  • Mountaineer

    I enjoyed reading this, thanks for writing it. I wonder, though…are all people who have expensive taste hiding behind those material things that they buy? I don’t necessarily think so. Some are, surely…but not all. In any case, lots of good thoughts coming from this article. Thank you. :)

  • Jen Bemke

    This article has come at a perfect time for me. I have been so focused on trying to change a situation and getting frustrated at myself when it (obviously) is not budging, telling myself that ‘I should be over this by now’ or ‘It’s so stupid to continue to think it’s going to end up that way.’

    I’m learning how to let things to, how to accept I’m not going to get what I want, and how to not beat myself up when life seems to just keep knocking me down.

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks for reading Jen! Glad it has brought you some insight :)

    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks for reading Mountaineer!

    Not at all! That’s just a belief that I was carrying and therefore projecting on to others.

    We live our lives based on what we believe and when something triggers us it’s usually because there’s something within ourselves that needs to be looked at.

    I’ve had to look into my beliefs about money, material things and financial wealth, and re-assess what I want to believe about those things.

    Glad you liked this article!

    Rachel X

  • jasonjay

    “Motivations and desires affect our perceptions. We don’t necessarily see things as they are. We see them as we are. Our desire system creates our perceptual universe.” – Ram Dass

  • Susanto Benny

    Thank you for writing this article its really help me to practice letting go my ego

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Great quote Jason! And so relevant!
    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks for reading Susanto! Glad it was of service!

    Rachel X

  • http://www.shannvanderleek.com/ Shann Vander Leek

    Thanks Rachel, I love that you share how important it is to monitor our inner critics. We all deserve to be more gentle with ourselves.

  • Smallbiz Hub

    Rachel, thank you! This is a lovely article. It is easy to forget these pieces of wisdom while running around throughout the day. You are my memory today.

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Thanks so much! I’m glad you were inspired by this piece!

    Rachel X

  • Rachel Jessica Tan

    Absolutely Shann. I’ve noticed recently that sometimes I forget to silence it! And it gets away with all sorts of things. We’ve really got to be aware of when our mind’s voice is trying to get us to play small.

    Rachel X

  • Julie Barnes

    Great article Rachel! Thank you! I love what you wrote…

    “Remember, we can’t change other people, the past, or circumstances out of our control. All we can change is ourselves. Shift your focus back onto yourself and realize that you have the power to change your life.”

    So many people wait their whole life for someone or something to change that they have no control over. Realizing you have the power is when the real change starts to happen.

    Thanks again!
    Julie :-)

  • http://www.livlight.blogspot.com/ Liv Light

    I really enjoyed reading this article! So thanks :) I am really working on doing all these steps, especially accepting what you cannot change.

  • Ashley

    Thank you for the article. I often beat myself up so badly. My inner voice can be BRUTAL. It is important to let go, and be easier on myself. You are so right, life is beautiful. Even the pain…

  • Leanne

    I have discovered this recently myself – I project my own thinking on to others about why they do things, and it’s so often wrong! Recently I went to a few new places alone and no-one spoke to me. I swore I wouldn’t go back to ‘those rude people’ when a friend pointed out that the world is a mirror, and she was right, I really didn’t think anyone would talk to me before I went because of all the old beliefs that were coming up. Great article that summarises this perfectly!

  • Rei

    The first point is something I definitely need to remember more. Especially the “allow yourself the time to learn the lesson at your own pace” part. Growth isn’t always linear. Sometimes we move forward, backward, and sideways before we get on track and where we want to be.

  • Lisa Fitzpatrick

    Thanks so much for this I’m especially going to take the last piece of advice to celebrate the growth that comes from all the work we do on ourselves to become better reflections of who we truly are. Many kind regards, Lisa

  • Jessica Gabrielle McKay

    What an amazing self-awareness and powerful teaching for everyone! We’ve all done this, for sure. Thank you for sharing and shedding light on something that is universal to us all.

  • Sandiso Maninjwa

    Thanks Jessica for writing this article I real got new biggest words in my life n it make me feel very stronger