Your Journey To Self Love – 5 Tips

journey to self love
journey to self love

The Journey to Self Love

The journey to self love can be a hard winding road. At times you might think you’re on the right path. At other times you might put yourself outside your comfort zone. Or maybe you make a mistake at work or in a relationship. Suddenly out of nowhere your inner critic rears it’s ugly head. Slinging insults at you. At times like this it may feel like a journey to self love is pointless, something that will never happen.

You might know you want to extend more love and kindness to yourself, but don’t know how. I’ve outlined 5 tips to help you on your journey to self love.

Tip 1: Make room for your inner critic – it’s not going anywhere

This might not make sense at first… maybe you are hoping that self love will make the critic go away. I get it, I want that too… however looking at your experiences has that ever happened? You may have tried fighting or ignoring the critic. But did it ever make the critic go away for good? I know from my experience that has never been the case.

Another option is to make room for our inner critics and even extend some warmth and kindness to them. One way to do this is to imagine your inner critic like a character, what would it look like? What does it say to you? Try naming it something light hearted.

Next, and this can be a hard one, ask yourself how this inner critic might be trying to protect you? Is it trying to keep you safe, protect you from getting hurt, making a mistake, or being rejected? Even though it is going about it in an unhelpful way, does it have a good intention for you?

Tip 2: Focus on actions, instead of feelings

On our journey to self love we can get very focused on how we want to feel. I want to feel happy, warm, and I want this sadness / fear / guilt / shame to go away. It makes perfect sense, who would want to feel those things?

The trouble is, we don’t have a lot of control over what feelings show up in a given moment. What we do have control over is how we respond to those feelings with they show up… i.e. our actions.

For a moment I want you to imagine someone you love like crazy. Try to really picture their face… close your eyes for a moment and try to settle in that space. Notice the warmth and kindness that shows up as you think of that person…. Now what if you were someone you loved like crazy? How would you treat that person when they failed, or made a mistake? What would you do to care for them daily? Where would you take them, what would you have them do?

Notice all these questions are getting at actions. I believe this is the heart of a journey to self love. It all starts with the question: how would I care for myself right now in this moment if I were someone I loved like crazy?

Tip 3: Start small, go slow

Perhaps these questions above have brought up some answers for you. I’d go to the gym 5 days a week, eat healthy every day, give up alcohol, start meditating, take up yoga, etc. etc.

It can be so easy to jump into something new, and demand perfection from ourselves. I know when I’ve done this to myself I end up not reaching any goals, and give up completely.

That’s why tip 3 is start small and go slow. Maybe today if you were caring for yourself like someone you loved you would get up out of your chair a few times and walk around. Or maybe today you would cook a meal for yourself instead of ordering take out.

Tip 4: Understand your bigger purpose

Sometimes underneath a journey to self love are other journeys we want to take. It can be useful to ask yourself what would self love allow for? What would it mean to you?

Perhaps you are waiting for self love before you take a big step in your career, or in your love life, or an adventure you always wanted to go on.

If you did love yourself like crazy, what journey would you want to go on? Could you take a small action now in line with that journey?

Tip 5: Remember it is a practice, not a destination

The journey to self love is a practice. We never reach a destination of self love. It is something that we do, not something we have or feel. We will always stray from our path to self love. Each time we notice that we have strayed we can always bring ourselves back with one small action – a soothing touch, a walk in nature, saying some kind words to ourselves.

Self-compassion is a great practice and tool for the journey. To learn more about this practice, click here.

Is Online Therapy Effective and Is It Right For Me?

is online therapy effective
is online therapy effective

What is the effectiveness of online therapy?

Since the pandemic, so many jobs have turned from in-person to work from home… therapy included! Now that a lot of the world has opened up and returned to working in-person, you may be wondering if it is better to seek therapy in-person or online. Is online therapy as effective as in-person anyways?

Turns out, research has shown that yes, it very much is. One meta study looked at 64 studies comparing online to in-person therapy involving over 9,000 clients seeking therapy for anxiety and depression. They found that the effectiveness of online therapy was no different than in-person therapy.

In fact one study showed that online therapy might be MORE effective for people age 19-39. This may be partly due to a familiarity and comfort with technology. It also may be due to the anonymity and privacy that online therapy provides. It can be difficult at first to open up and be vulnerable with a stranger.

Some people may feel more reserved and closed off going into a therapy office compared to seeing someone in the comfort of their own home. When someone sees a therapist at home, they have more control over their immediate environment, and it turns out might end up being more open in their session.

4 Factors To Consider When Deciding If Online Therapy is Right For You

Ok, so you might be thinking, that’s great online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy, but is it the right choice for me? Here are some factors that might be helpful to consider.


An important factor to consider is do you have a private space in your home where you can see yourself sharing details about your life? I think this might be one of the most important factors. If you live in a busy home, where it is likely that you will be disturbed, or might be worried about others over hearing you, online therapy might not be the best fit.

Do I see myself being more open at home or in-person?

This relates to privacy and the important finding from that study. Do you see yourself being more open at home or in-person? If you sense that you would be more likely to open up from the comfort of your home, then online therapy might be a better fit for you

Internet Connection

This might be an obvious one, but still important to consider. If you use your internet connection for Zoom calls and streaming services like Netflix you should be good to go for online therapy! Of course, if you don’t have a strong internet connection there are ways around this… maybe you talk to your therapist over the phone and mute your video call so you can still see them.

Will I be more likely to attend regularly if it is online?

Therapy has the greatest chance of success when it is attended regularly. An important question to ask yourself is do I have time to commute into a therapy office? If doing online therapy would make it more likely that you will attend regularly then this might be a better fit for you.

You are not struggling with psychosis

Research has shown that in-person therapy is more effective than online therapy for those struggling with psychosis. This may be that individuals struggling with psychosis find it difficult to connect with a therapist through a screen. If this is something you are struggling with, then in-person therapy is probably the best option.

Do what feels right to you!

Overall online therapy and in-person therapy are equally effective for treating anxiety and depression. I would suggest trying out what feels right to you. If you are someone that prefers seeing someone in-person, and there is a therapy practice close to you that you are likely to attend, then go for it!

If you are someone that likes the idea of being open to a therapist in your own personal space, and would find it challenging commuting into an office regularly, then try out online. Either way, you can always switch if it turns out that it’s not the right fit for you.

Interested in Online Therapy?

How Are Panic Attacks Treated

How Are Panic Attacks Treated

Disclaimer: If you notice yourself experiencing what you think are panic attacks, it is always best to visit your Doctor (GP) as a first stop to make sure these symptoms are not caused by an underlying health condition. Once your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, they might refer you to a therapist for panic attacks.

What is a panic attack?

Panic attacks are a heightened form of anxiety. They can be an unbearably overwhelming experience. Heart racing, a tightness in your chest, hands tingling, feeling like you just can’t catch a breath.

It’s no wonder that many people end up in the emergency room for fear that they are having a heart attack. When a panic attack shows up, it can feel like something is going terribly wrong with our bodies.

What is happening when we have a panic attack?

We humans have evolved to avoid things that are unpleasant, dangerous, and painful. If we think back to ourselves as cave people on the savannah, avoiding dangerous things meant that we would not become another creatures lunch!

We not only avoid painful things outside our body, we are also wired to avoid unpleasant experiences inside our body as well. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) we call this process experiential avoidance.

Experiential avoidance is something we all do, myself included! I don’t want to feel shame or have my mind tell me I’m a failure so I don’t go for that promotion at work. I don’t want to feel the fear and embarrassment that would come if the cute girl at the coffee shop rejects me, so I won’t go ask her out on a date.

When we are struggling with a panic attack, our minds see our racing heart, tightness in our chest, and shortness of breath as an alarm signal that something is wrong. Our mind might start telling us I am dying, I am having a heart attack!

Of course, our mind is just trying to help us and keep us safe, however a cycle of panic has now begun. Our racing heart is now pounding even faster, our chest feels even tighter, and we start grasping for the next breath.

In psychology we say that panic attacks are anxiety about anxiety. When anxiety shows up, it is natural to have the physical sensations described above. Our minds however can start seeing these physical sensations as a very real and dangerous threat. Just like we would a lion on the savannah! We naturally try to get rid of anxiety, and doing so creates panic.

How are panic attacks treated?

So how are panic attacks treated in therapy? A therapist will help you identify what triggers your panic attack. This would include physical sensations (for e.g. your heart rate increasing), what your mind is saying (your thoughts), what feelings show up in your body, and in what situations a panic attack is more likely to occur.  

You might have already guessed, if trying to get rid of anxiety is what causes a panic attack, would it make sense to practice the opposite of trying to get rid of it? Yep! That’s exactly what we do!

In therapy we call this skill willingness. Willingness means practicing making room for what feelings and bodily sensations are showing up moment to moment. A big part of therapy for panic attacks is about building this skill.  

Once this skill is practiced, it would then be put to use in what we call interoceptive exposure (currently the best evidenced based method for treating panic attacks). Interoceptive exposure means you and your therapist would gradually expose yourselves to the feared physical sensations. That could be dizziness, a racing heart, shortness of breath, nausea, or a tightness in your throat.

This could be done by both of you running up and down on the spot, rapid deep breathing, spinning yourself in a chair, or breathing through a straw to name a few.

If this sounds scary to you, you’re right, it is scary! Taking a step like this marks a profound act of courage. It is scary, and possible! A former first lady of the U.S. said it best:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Photo by Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

How To Overcome Being a Perfectionist

How To Overcome Being a Perfectionist

Being a perfectionist is something I know all too well! I remember back in my university days, waking up with overwhelming anxiety thinking about upcoming exams and projects. I would tell myself, today will be the day that I will tackle all the things on my to do list for school!

The day would slowly go by, as I watched my favourite TV show, I’d look at the clock… 2 pm already! My mind would chime in, and start beating me up: you will never get any of this done, you might as well give up and leave university, you do not belong here!!

You might be thinking, hey, this does not sound like perfectionism! I thought a perfectionist was someone who overworked themselves, set high standards, and consistently strived to be the best.

Or perhaps you relate to my story, maybe it’s one you know well yourself.

The Unhelpful Cycle of Perfectionism

While it is true that some perfectionists find themselves in a cycle of striving, the cycle of perfectionism I found myself in was one of avoidance. I was avoiding failure at all costs, so much so that I did not even try. If you don’t try, you can’t fail, right?

We used to think being a perfectionist was a personality trait, something we are born with, and in a sense stuck with. Now we know that this is not the case, perfectionism can be thought of a as cycle of learned behaviour.

We become stuck in an unhelpful cycle of perfectionism when what we are doing pulls us away from the life we are wanting to build.

If I think back to my university days, deep down I wanted to be an engaged student, but my behaviour was all about avoiding feelings of failure, which pulled me away from the student I wanted to be.

As humans, we are kind of built to avoid stuff that makes us not feel good. It is like our default setting. The things we do to avoid difficult thoughts and feelings often work for us in the short term, but at times can be unworkable in the long term.

Sitting in my dorm room, watching the latest Grey’s Anatomy episode worked to quiet my inner critic, and got rid of my fear of failure… but not for very long.

How To Overcome Being a Perfectionist

It can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions to better understand your cycle of perfectionism. You can write them down in a notebook if you like.

  1. Are the actions I am taking to strive to be perfect and never fail at anything pulling me towards the life I want, or away from the life I want? If you said, TOWARDS, then great, you can stop right there. Your perfectionism is working for you! If you said AWAY then continue on:
  2. What are my perfectionist actions helping me to avoid thinking and feeling? Fear of failure can look a little differently for each of us. Maybe it is a fear of not being liked, or a fear of looking incompetent, or a fear of being judged by others? What is it for you?
  3. Is there something that really matters to me that I am avoiding because I don’t want to fail at it? Would I be willing to put myself in that space, and bring the difficult thoughts/feelings along for the ride? If you answered no, is there a smaller step you would be willing to take?

Antidote to Perfectionism: A Willingness to Fail

My encouragement to you is… can you get a bit more willing to fail? A bit more willing to feel what shows up when you fail?  Kelly Wilson, co-founder of ACT, put it best:

“If we don’t allow ourselves to fall, then we can’t really play”

When we can allow ourselves to fail, the world really opens up to us. There is so much more possibility in where we might go! What do you want to move your feet towards?

Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Emotions as Allies

We all know that being human means we experience a wide range of emotions; happiness, sadness, anger, fear, guilt, surprise, joy, loneliness, and love to name a few.

Yet quite often when a difficult emotion comes up, we try to avoid it, get rid of it, or beat ourselves up for having it in the first place.

Emotions contain messages

We forget that our emotions have evolved for a purpose and often contain important information. Here are some common messages an emotion might be telling us…

Anger often tells us that we have been hurt or treated unfairly. It can serve as a warning sign that there is something wrong that needs to be addressed.

Sadness often tells us we have experienced some type of loss. This could be an external loss such as the loss of a person, experience, or job. It can also be an internal loss such as a loss of meaning or perhaps we are not living up to some ideal we have about ourselves.

Fear has evolved to warn us of some type of danger, its purpose is to protect us. This was especially important back when we were living in caves and there was danger everywhere.

Guilt shows up when we believe we have done something wrong. It can tell us that we need to make amends with someone.  

Love tells us that we appreciate someone, and we want to be close to them. It motivates us to connect with others.  

How can our emotions help us?

When we try to hide, or fight, or runaway from our emotions, we often miss the message they might be trying to tell us. To help think about this, the next time you’re experiencing a difficult emotion, ask yourself:

  • Is this emotion telling me I need to address, solve, or come to terms with something?
  • What does this emotion tell me about what I care about? Are there any values underlying this emotion?
  • Is this emotion telling me I need to do something differently?
  • Can this emotion help me empathize with other people who may be experiencing something similar?

Sometimes when we experience a difficult emotion there might not be a clear purpose, or message. In these situations, an emotion like this can be a reminder to be more self-compassionate. To read more about this idea click here.

When we reframe any difficult emotion as having a purpose, or a message (even if it is just to be more compassionate to ourselves), our emotions can become an ally, instead of an enemy we need to run away from.

Connecting with Your Values (Part 3)

This article goes into practical ways we can start living by our personal values. If you have not clarified your own values yet, check out part two of this article series here.

Flavour and Savour

Any given value has an infinite number of possible actions. Take kindness for example. This could include complimenting a friend, petting your dog, making yourself a nice dinner, giving someone you love a hug…the list goes on.

One simple way we can bring our values into play is to pick one or two values from your list. Throughout your day try to flavour your actions with that value. Whenever you do a value-based action, notice how you feel afterwards. Is this action more in line with the person you want to be or less? If it is more in line, then try to savour how that feels.

SMART Goal Setting

Another, more formal way, to bring our values into play is to set a goal around a given value. The SMART acronym is a popular way to do this. The acronym is as follows.

Specific – we want the goal to be as specific as possible. If your goal is to be kinder to yourself, what does that actually look like? An example of a specific goal would be “I’ll practice a self-compassion meditation 2 times this week, once on Monday and once on Wednesday”.

Motivated by Values – is this goal motivated by your values? Is it helping you become more like the person you deep down want to be?

Adaptive – is this goal going to help you improve your life in some way? If no, then it is not very likely you will complete it.

Realistic – this one is very important, and often why we do not end up meeting our goals. When we set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and then end up failing, it can lead us to lose confidence in our abilities and that pesky inner critic can rear its ugly head. Always ask yourself, on a scale of 0 to 10, how realistic is this goal (0 being this goal is completely unrealistic to 10 being this goal is completely realistic)? We want a 7 or higher.

Time-framed – always put a time limit on your goal. This allows us to see that the goal has been completed, which can improve our confidence in our ability to complete our goals.

How do I know if these are my real values?

This is a very common question. The interesting thing about this question, is it is not really something that can be answered by going over it in your head.

This question can only be answered by getting out there, trying out actions in line with a specific value, and noticing whether or not this brings you closer or further away from the sort of person you want to be. There is an old proverb that sums this up nicely

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

So, get out there, and test it out for yourself!

Connecting with Your Values (Part 2)

This article contains 3 written exercises that are designed to help clarify your own personal values. To get some background on what I mean by values, check out part one of this article here.

I highly suggest taking out a pen and paper to write these answers down. It is way more helpful then just going it over in your head. These exercises were created by psychotherapist Russ Harris’. To check out his ACT program click here.

Okay so you have your pen and paper, right?

10 Years Into the Future

I want you to imagine that we fast forward 10 years into the future. Finish the following sentences:

I spent too much time worrying about…

I did not spend enough time doing such things as…

If I could go back in time, what I’d do differently from today onwards is…

Your 80th Birthday

I want you to imagine that starting today, you lived your life exactly as you wanted to live it. Difficult thoughts and feelings did not get in your way and you behaved exactly as the person you truly wished to be. You treated yourself, others and the world the way you deep down wanted to treat them.

Now we fast forward to your 80th birthday, and someone very special to you gets up to make a speech about you. What would you most like to hear them say about…

The sort of person you were…

Your 3 greatest strengths and qualities…

The way you treated them…

Something that is painful today

Last scenario. I want you to pick out a situation you are struggling with today. Now let’s fast forward 1 year into the future and we are looking back on this situation. I want you to imagine you handled it in the best possible way, behaving like the person you deep down want to be. From this perspective…

What did you stand for in the face of this adversity? What values did you live by? For example, did you stand for courage, persistence, kindness, compassion, honesty, integrity?  

How did you treat yourself as you dealt with this?

How did you treat others you care about?


What did you find in these answers? Were there any values you could see in your responses? Try writing a list of what values came up.

If you are confused by what I mean by ‘values’, check out this list of common values here.  

Connecting with Your Values (Part 1)

The word ‘values’ can trigger different meanings for different people. Some people will instantly think of valuing their family or their relationship. When I speak of ‘values’, I mean something much more specific.

I mean deep down how do you most want to treat yourself, others, and the world? How do you want to treat your family? What kind of partner do you want to be?

In this definition, values are defined as desired global qualities of ongoing action. They are something that can be done in any moment. For example, loving, kindness, compassion, respect, courage, cooperation, adventure, curiosity are all examples of values.

Values vs. Goals

It is very common to confuse values with goals. One way to look at it is values are in the here and now, goals are in the future. If it is something that can be checked off a list, like getting married, then it is a goal. Being a loving partner would be a value.

What is helpful about this distinction is that we might never reach a certain goal, for example we might never get married. However, we can always connect with our value of being loving, whether that be towards ourselves, others, and the world. Conversely, we may reach our goal of getting married, but not be living by our value of being loving.

If you were going on a road trip your compass is like your values, pointing you in the direction you want to go, whereas goals are the things you do along the way. Values can help guide our goals, and we can reconnect with them in any moment to remind ourselves of the person we truly wish to be. This helps give our life meaning and purpose. 

How you want to behave, not how others want you to behave

Values are about how we deep down want to behave, not how we think we should behave, or how the people in our lives want us to behave.

Our values never need to be justified. They are simply preferences, just like we all have different preferences for ice cream flavours. We would never argue that my taste in chocolate ice cream is superior to your taste for strawberry. The same goes for our values.

Values and Pain – The Double Sided Coin

There are many different exercises that can help clarify our values. One simple way is to spend a moment to reflect on what causes you pain. What causes you to be most upset with others, or most upset with yourself? Chances are your values are hidden in there.

Are you upset with yourself when you are short or snap at someone you care about? Perhaps that means you value kindness. Do you not like it when a friend gossips to you about someone in your life? Perhaps you value honesty.

Values and pain are two sides of the same coin.

As psychologist Steve Hayes put it, we hurt where we care, and we care where we hurt. If we cannot turn towards our pain, that means we also cannot turn towards the things that truly matter to us. We lose contact with our values, and by extension lose contact with what gives life meaning and purpose.

Check out this Ted Talk where Steve Hayes goes into how pain and values are intimately connected, and how we cannot have one without the other.

Handling Our Minds

Have you ever been somewhere beautiful, maybe on a vacation with the people you care about most, yet you just can’t seem to get out of your head? You feel unable to enjoy the moment and relax even though this is the very thing you came here to do? Your mind then starts beating you up for not enjoying the time away? I know mine has!

It’s natural for our minds to wander

Our minds have evolved to look out for danger, solve problems, plan for the future. It is quite extraordinary what the human mind can do, but there is also a dark side to this. There are times when we do not want our minds to be solving problems, planning for the future, or dwelling on the negative, but we can’t seem to shut it off.

Unfortunately, this is because we can’t shut off our mind. More and more research is actually showing that the more we try to stop our thoughts the more this can backfire.

The rebound effect

One famous study asked participants to try and not think about a white bear for 5 minutes. Can you guess what happened? Well, they spent the entire time thinking about white bears! Interestingly, afterwards this group also ended up having more thoughts about white bears than a control group who was instructed to actively think of white bears, suggesting that asking someone to not think about something could produce a rebound effect where they end up thinking about it more.

If we can’t make our mind not think about something as simple as white bears, how are we supposed to stop our mind from thinking about the bigger and more personal issues present in our lives? Relationship issues, financial issues, thoughts of not being good enough?

Of course, sometimes we need to think about our issues. We might have real problems that need to be addressed, or changes that need to be made. In these times our minds can be quite effective.

However, in times when we want to be in the moment, whether that be engaging with our loved ones, focusing on a specific task, or even trying to fall asleep, this dark side of our mind can creep in and pull us away from what we are doing.

What to do?

One way to better handle our mind in these times is to practice not reacting to thoughts when they show up. Instead of getting caught up in our thoughts, we practice seeing thoughts for what they are, simply words or pictures going through our mind. Like anything, this takes practice.

My favourite exercise that does this is called Leaves on a Stream, try it out for yourself below. Obviously, we might not be able to do a formal exercise like this if we are in the middle of doing a specific task. It is better to think of an exercise like this as going to the gym for your mind. The more you exercise this muscle. The better you will be able to detach from unhelpful thoughts in the moment when they naturally show up.

Leaves on a Stream Exercise

Why is it so hard to be happy?

Happiness! We all want it, but why does it sometimes seem so far out of reach? Quite often when someone is asked what they want out of life, a common answer is ‘I just want to be happy!’ Seems reasonable enough. But what if this chase for happiness is actually making us all miserable?

Dr. Russ Harris, a psychotherapist, argues there are 3 common myths our culture holds about happiness and if we buy into these myths, they can end up making us miserable. He calls this the Happiness Trap.

Myth 1: Happiness is a natural state

The first myth is that happiness is a natural state for humans. You give humans food, water, shelter, loving relationships, and we will all just naturally be happy. This is far from the case.

Being human means we experience a constant changing flow of emotions; anger, joy, sadness, guilt, jealousy, surprise, anxiety… the list goes on! Emotions are like the weather, they always change. We would never say the natural state of the weather is a bright sunny day. The same goes for our emotions.

Myth 2: Happiness means feeling good

The second myth is that happiness means feeling good. If you look up happiness in the dictionary, you’ll most likely come across this definition. The issue though is that if this is your idea of happiness, then there is no such thing as lasting happiness. Think about the greatest day in your life, did this day only give rise to pleasant feelings? Or did other feelings also show up?

The other issue with this notion, is that the things that give life meaning and purpose never give rise to only pleasant feelings. Parenthood, building a career, developing meaningful relationships… do these give rise to only pleasant feelings? Absolutely not! They give rise to an entire range of feelings; contentment, pride, love but also guilt, anxiety, and frustration to name a few.

Myth 3: If you are not happy, you are defective  

The third myth is that if you are not happy, you are defective and there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed. This is not true. If you are not happy, you are normal. Life is hard! We all struggle and we all suffer at multiple points in our lives.

When we buy into this myth that we’re defective, then it can lead us to beat ourselves up for having difficult emotions in the first place. To read more about this idea click here.

What is happiness then?

Dr. Russ Harris defines happiness as living a rich, full, and meaningful life in which we experience the full range of human emotion.

What makes life rich, full, and meaningful will depend on getting in touch with our own personal values. One thing is for sure though, the things that make life meaningful will always give rise to both pleasant and unpleasant feelings.


To learn more about this idea of the Happiness Trap, Dr. Russ Harris has both a book and an online course. Both resources teach practical tools for how to handle difficult feelings when they naturally come up, as well as how to live a rich, full, and meaningful life. Check them out!