How to stop being so hard on yourself

If you’re into personal development, business coaching or sports performance, you’ll know that many of life’s successes come down to having the right mindset. 

This is why I place a lot of emphasis on cultivating a ‘Fertile Mindset’ with my clients who are TTC. 

But don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to ‘just relax and it’ll happen’ because you’d probably want to punch me. 

And it’s not about being positive all the time either.

I’ve noticed that a good number of my fertility clients have a few things in common when it comes to mindset. Most of them are very competent, ambitious women, some might say high achievers with perfectionist streaks. 

They expect a lot from themselves and can be SO self critical when they don’t reach their goals. Fertility is a really tricky one because unfortunately it’s not something that you can just work harder at and be guaranteed to succeed. 

We all, whether TTC or not, can sometimes fall into unhelpful and stressed thinking styles and because stress is a huge obstacle to fertility, it’s a key thing to address. 

I’d like you to notice and observe if you relate to anything on this list. 

It’s not a prompt to berate yourself if you do – we just want to increase our awareness of the paths our monkey minds travel down so that we can catch the thoughts more easily and reframe them to something helpful. ?

All or nothing thinking: you look at things in absolute, extreme ways, there’s no grey in between. Watch out for using words like ‘always’ and ‘never’

Over generalisation: You view a negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat.

Discounting past achievements: you insist that your accomplishments or qualities ‘don’t count’. This can include discounting improvements to physical and emotional health – continuing to tell yourself that ‘nothing works’ when you have tangible evidence that you have positively responded to health and lifestyle changes.

Jumping to conclusions: a) Mind reading. You assume people are reacting negatively to you when there’s no definitive evidence for this.  b) Fortune telling. You predict things will turn out badly. 

I read somewhere that people do this in an attempt to protect themselves from pain and disappointment but evidence shows that it’s no less disappointing ‘if’ things turn out badly than if you approached the situation with positive expectations. So may as well aim for the bright side as much as possible! 

Magnification or minimisation: You blow things way out of proportion or shrink their real importance.

Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot so I must be one”

Or “This whole situation feels awful so it’s not going to work out”.

“Should” statements. This is sooo common – we criticise ourselves or others with rules like “should’ and “shouldn’t”, “must”, “Ought”, “have to” and “got to”. 

Labelling: You identify with your shortcomings. Instead of saying “I made such and such a mistake” you berate yourself and say “I’m such an idiot…” 

You use one important word or phrase to stand for a host of values. 

Personalisation and blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for. Or, you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attitude and behaviour might contribute to a problem.

One technique I find helpful in some of these situations is to do a sense check and ask myself “is this true?”.

Usually you’ll find it’s not true that you’re an idiot/fully to blame/can’t manage/failed miserably…

I’ve definitely fallen prey to all of these over the years but not so much these days because I try to pay attention to the way I talk to myself! 

Which one, if any, do you do the most?


Sally Varley

Sally Varley

Hi, I'm Sally, a fertility expert. To read more about me click here.

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