Balance is the key to everything – what we do, think, say, eat, feel… they all require awareness and through this awareness we can grow.” Author Koi Fresco hit the nail on the head when he equated balance with growth. Often, we need both to strive to be better and to be compassionate to ourselves, but both these needs can feel like polar opposites, thereby leading to dissatisfaction. It is true that self-improvement and self-compassion have very different aims. The first results in better self-esteem; the second in peaceful acceptance of who we are, flaws and all. In fact, these qualities can work perfectly well whenever we recognize the many signs that tell us to move full speed ahead or to take the time to sit back and give ourselves a pat on the back. How can we achieve this balance so as to be happier, healthier, and truer to ourselves?


Setting Reasonable Goals

There are few things that can stand in the way of our happiness more than striving for the impossible – perfection. This is one reason why many sign up for the gym, only to give up after one or two workout sessions, or why they get excited about a new diet, only to find it too restrictive to follow. Health is a perfect example of how reasonable goal setting and holistic approaches to improvement go hand in hand. Instead of setting an unreasonable weight loss or fitness goal, why not make feeling energetic every day that you wake up in the morning your goal? Striking this balance involves taking many small but doable steps that will make a big difference to how you look and feel. These steps include drinking plenty of water, reducing refined and sugary foods, working out even for a few minutes a day, and taking time to battle stress proactively through yoga, meditation, or any other natural stress-busting activity.


Being Kind To Yourself Every Day

A study by researchers from the Australian Catholic University found that self-compassion (being as kind to yourself as you would to others) can help weaken the link between perfectionism and depression. Another study by Duke University researchers, meanwhile, showed that treating yourself kindly when things go badly can be a key to weathering life’s challenges. “Self-compassion helps to eliminate a lot of the anger, depression and pain we experience when things go badly for us,” said Mark R. Leary, one of the authors of the study. Being as kind to yourself as you would to others essentially enables you to avoid adding a layer of self-recrimination into the equation when difficult things are happening in your life. Self-compassion is not to be confused with lack of accountability. It simply involves avoiding repeated self-criticism, viewing your negative experiences as part of the human condition, and understanding that tough emotions and thoughts are temporary.


Mindfulness is arguably the ‘glue’ that allows human beings to strive for self-improvement yet be kind to themselves all at once. By focusing on the present moment and on living life to the full, you can avoid the negative mindset that can stand in the way of your goals. The more you realize that negative feelings like disappointment are temporary and do not define you, the more you can stop setbacks from derailing you from your goals. The art of knowing when to push yourself and when you stop is ultimately learned through time and experience, as well as a desire and willingness to grow, change and accept – all at once.