What is Being Mild to Yourself?

This is a translation of a Dutch Piece out of the book of Edel Maex (Mindfulness, 2006) named:

“Wat is mildheid?”, meaning “What is Being Mild to Yourself?”

“Mildheid” is translated as Mildness, being mild, gentleness, a mixture of kindness and compassion, not being too hard or too harsh on yourself.


Being mild is what most people feel when they see any young child walk for the first time. With a mixture of compassion and encouragement you watch how the child tries to stand up, keeps its balance, enjoys its first success and then falls, and then stands up again and…

When the child falls you are not angry. You give the child space to develop itself and find his/her own way. That’s how we learn. When it enthusiastically and eagerly extends out with its hands to you, you reach out your hands and give the child the opportunity to grab them and enjoy it if he/she reaches his goal.  

Most people don’t treat themselves that way. How often do you lose yourself in criticism and disapproval? If things don’t work out you give yourself an extra punishment. As if it is isn’t hard enough already… This way you actually can’t learn, you only make it worse.

How can you be mild to yourself? What is being gentle for yourself? If someone would judge and blame you in exactly the same manner as you are doing to yourself, you would perhaps not put up with it. Hopefully you have enough self-respect to realize that you really don’t need accusation.

What is mildness? The best way to find out what mildness is, is your own desire. How would you want someone else to treat you when you are going through a tough time. Are you longing for accusation and humiliation or for understanding and respect? Someone who listens to you or someone who tells you that you should do everything differently (as if you didn’t know that already)?

Being mild is a conscious decision. You choose to not continue with the destructive pattern of self-blame. What do you notice? First of all, you notice how deep this pattern of self-criticism is. The judgements and blame come automatically and you can’t stop them. You tend to judge yourself for this failure.

This is THE moment to remind yourself that you choose for gentleness. Condemning yourself for a lack of mildness would be more of the same. So… what can you do? Look at yourself the same way as you look at a child who falls and stands up. To your deep automatic patterns that you can’t stop, to your pain, to your desire. It doesn’t change the patterns, at least not immediately. The thoughts remain the same. But by changing the way you handle and look at it is in itself a radical change.

Written by

Flo Westendorp
Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Healthcare Psychologist Certificate MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *