Treat yourself like one of your conversation exchange partners

There’s that old chestnut about treating yourself with the same understanding and kindness that you extend to your friends, instead of being hyper-critical and impatient.

I said the other day that I try to be who my conversation exchange partners think I am. It occurs to me that I should treat myself like I treat them as well. Maybe you should too, if you don’t already! I bet you’ve never said to the other person, “Dummy! I’ve told you that word three times already, why don’t you ever remember it?” or “How do you ever expect to learn this language if you don’t go any faster???” or “You’ve studied this tense over and over, why can’t you use it right yet?” or “Do you really think you can do this?”

I bet, like me, you’re more likely to celebrate their small frequent successes — like when you see them struggle with a grammar point and then manage to get the words out correctly — and help them figure out how to keep improving in a way that works for them. It feels wonderful to be on the receiving end of this sort of thing, too: I’ve had people make a point to tell me how much I’d improved after we’d been speaking for a few weeks, for example.

What if I spent less time castigating myself (for not studying “enough,” for not learning as fast as I wish I was) and was able to redirect that energy to patience and compassion and gentle encouragement? What if you did?

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