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  • Peg Hunt

Hardcore Kindness

One of the things we would like to do with this blog, is to introduce our readers to resources that we found interesting and helpful. One of these is Martha Beck’s “Gathering Room” video chat (available on FB & Instagram). Martha Beck is a sociologist, author, and world-renowned coach.

One episode we particularly liked was when she described her own experiment with “hardcore kindness.” She has been a on quest to turn around her own discontent and improve her health, and one area of focus has been catching herself being self-critical and replacing it with “hardcore kindness.” An example she gave is when she noticed that she was beating herself up about a presentation. As soon as she noticed, she stopped rehearsing all the things she wished she had done better and forced herself to think about what went well: she received tons of positive feedback from others; she made some friends; etc. Slowing the self-criticism and allowing in positive feedback is important because it creates new neural pathways to replace the less helpful ones.

When we do something that is not up to our expectations, we tend to be self-critical. Hardcore kindness is a radical approach to lay down those new neural pathways by STOPPING the negative self-talk and replacing it with conscious self-kindness. “What fires together, wires together” (Donald Hebb, 1949, and article ). The more positive feedback you can give yourself, the more powerful the intervention is-- that is, you create positive neural pathways associated with the self. We all know that when we are subject to a barrage of criticism we contract and become self-protective—not a place where we do our best work. When you release yourself from self-criticism and judgement, you free yourself up to be more creative, solve problems, and connect with others. Finally, being kind to yourself, makes it easier to be kind to others.

And here is what makes “hardcore kindness” even trickier—you need to shut down the self-criticism without being critical! It needs to sound something like, “Hey critical voice, you are making me feel bad. I understand you want me to be perfect, but my work was well received and I got positive feedback, so that is what I am going to focus on.”

Martha Beck suggests:

  • Commit to hardcore kindness—vow that you “will allow no uncorrected self-criticism”.

  • Commit to it all the way (all day, every day) – from the perspective of changing our neural pathways, 3 hours of kindness does not balance against the remaining hours of self-criticism.

  • Be kind to the self-critical parts, they think they are helping you succeed.

  • Another option is to set aside time to have kindness talks with yourself everyday—for example, practicing a self-kindness meditation or using your exercise time to rehearse all the positive things about you.

So, the next time you begin to criticize yourself, stop and think about the neural pathways that will actually serve you, and pivot to think about all the things that went well. It will take practice but it’s worth the effort.

If you would like more information about how coaching can impact your negative thoughts or want to learn more about “hardcore kindness” please contact me at for a free consultation.

©Anne Garing and Peg Hunt

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