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Self-Compassionate Mindset and Sticking to Your Goals

By Jessica Allen

So, you’ve started on your journey to a healthier you. You’ve got the journal, the water bottle, and all the meal plans, even the new active wear. You’re feeling good, motivated, ready to tackle this new phase, but will it last? Longevity can be a huge challenge when you are trying to implement new habits or make different life choices – New Year’s resolution anyone?! Sometimes it doesn’t matter how badly you want it, or how important you know it is, it can still be really difficult to stick to changes. One of the main reasons for this difficulty is that change is hard, it involves lots of effort and planning, and we can have lots of set-backs that can be demotivating and trick us into giving up. Contrary to what our parents and teachers probably told us growing up tough love and punishments just don’t work. For example, if you eat half a block of chocolate when you have been trying to reduce sugar, saying to yourself “you idiot that was so bad!” is probably not going to motivate you to change, but lead you to eat the rest of the block of chocolate out of shame. Self-compassion is one evidence backed way to support a strong mindset and gently motivate you to reach your goals and stick to them. 


Self-compassion is the act of being kind, understanding, and caring to yourself, as you would to a loved one. Self-compassion is the opposite of self-criticism. Research findings show that people who are self-compassionate are more likely to have intrinsic motivation (intrinsic meaning from inside: for reasons of growth, or personal challenge and not for external factors such as validation or to fit in), they are more able to bounce back after failure and less likely to wallow in disappointment. Self-compassionate people are more likely to take responsibility for their past mistakes, while acknowledging them with greater emotional maturity. Research also shows that self-compassion helps people engage in healthier behaviours like sticking to their weight-loss goals, exercising, and quitting smoking. One study found that female athletes with higher self-compassion had a greater level of personal growth, body appreciation, purpose in life and sense of responsibility and self-acceptance. One thing all these findings have in common is that self-compassion can help people become more motivated for improvement therefore leading a happier, healthier, more satisfying life. It is important to note that self-compassion is not plain old positivity. Positivity can be toxic as it can become dismissive and avoidant of our emotional experience, e.g., ‘just put on a smile!’, or ‘oh well it’s not that bad’. These statements are dismissive and can lead to internalised feelings of shame and failure. Lastly, misconceptions about self-compassion that it is being ‘weak’ or letting ourselves off the hook could not be more wrong. One researcher, Paul Gilbert, who is the founder of the Compassionate Mind Foundation says that compassion is “one of the most important declarations of strength and courage known to humanity”. To support yourself when in pain, through failings and the ups and downs of life is not a weakness, nor is it failure, it actually takes great courage and emotional awareness. 

Here are some tips to get you started on your self-compassion journey. Remember to take it slowly, this might feel uncomfortable to you if you are new to self-compassion, especially if you are used to the tough love style. 

  1. Focus on what you WILL do not what you WON’T do. When we focus on what we don’t want to happen it has a funny way of eventuating. This is called the ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’ effect. What’s really going on here is that when we are expecting something bad to happen, we might overcompensate in ways that actually lead to the event happening. For example, I must stick to this new healthy diet because if I don’t it will be terrible, and I will be a failure. This kind of mindset leaves no room for slip ups and creates a lot of pressure. Try using “I want” statements, like “I want to eat healthy foods that nurture my body”. 
  2. Celebrate the small things. Small steps lead to big change and it’s important to celebrate along the way. These micro celebrations will help with your momentum and make the journey fun. Be your own cheer leader!
  3. Try out ‘if-then’ statements. E.g.,“If I get off track, then I will stop, think about what I could have done differently, and then begin again on the right track”. 
  4. Encouragement is key. Drop the blame and criticism, it doesn’t work. When you fall down help yourself back up. Accept that humans are flawed and we make mistakes. Imagine yourself as a child. What kind of encouragement would you have liked to hear back then? That child is still there and listening. Be kind, be encouraging, let yourself fail and then get back up and try again. 

About Jessica Allen 

Jessica is a clinical psychologist located in Melbourne and she's one of our talented 8-Week Program experts. She specialises in young people and parents going through the perinatal stage, while also helping patients manage depression, anxiety, personality disorders, relationship difficulties, eating disorders and trauma. With experience across clinical and educational settings, Jessica is now working with Orygen Digital in digital mental health program planning and implementation.

Jessica believes in a holistic approach to mental health that takes diet and lifestyle into account. She understands the monumental impact sugar can have on us and is dedicated to helping people improve their quality of life – starting with what we put on our plates. 

Instagram:  @jess.psychology

3 Responses

I Quit Sugar

I Quit Sugar

March 11, 2024

Hey Sibylle, we’re so glad it’s been helpful – we’ve all been there too with using sugar as an emotional crutch, and it’s so hard to address it and fight those powerful messages from our brain. But littles steps turn into big steps, and we’re so proud of your progress on the program! Wishing you all the best on your health journey – xx The IQS Team



March 11, 2024

As a recovering perfectionist, still hearing the “I’m just not good enough” tune in my head (and undoubtedly every cell of my body), I needed to read this exactly right now. This 8 week program has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, making me face my own emotions on numerous occasions when I tried to eat sugar in an attempt to numb my feelings but my body cleverly said YUKKKK. Along the journey, I have discovered many healthier options (thanks Instagram) that I am enjoying and, of course, the algorithm continues to deliver them to me. It still baffles me that, in teaching all this stuff to others, I find it all the harder to learn it on an experiential level myself.



November 11, 2022

Looks so interesting , I need to learn more

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