How To Have Your Own Back

May 23, 2022

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Most people find it easy to have someone else’s back. As humans, we’re naturally devoted to our loved ones. But what about having your own back? This can be much, much harder. We are often unkind to and critical of ourselves. More so than we ever would be of others. We can be our own worst enemy.

Through this episode, I want to encourage you to examine your self-talk and self-evaluation. I believe this is extremely important for internal health. I pose the questions: Can we make it easier for ourselves by going easier on ourselves? Can we move into a place of true change by accepting and approving of ourselves more? I believe we can and it starts with knowing how to have your own back.

“...the real ninja move here is to approve of yourself first. I would say having your own back. Accepting and approving of your life in this moment, and of this moment in your life, and yourself, just as we are, right now… then change can happen from a very different place.”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • You know because it hurts
  •  There’s so much to love
  • The paradox of acceptance and change
  • 11 ways to have your own back

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach

Is there a topic you’d like me to talk about on a future podcast? Email me or reach out on social media. All my contact details are below. I’d love to hear from you!


I’m Dr. Sara Dill, and this is the Stress-Less Physician Podcast, episode number 15. Welcome to the Stress-Less Physician podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Sara Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone, how are you? I am great. I’m actually recording a couple episodes this weekend, because I am going to Paris. So I think when you hear this, I’ll either have just gotten back from Paris or I will still be there, and I am so excited. I haven’t been there in so long. Paris is my favorite city. And this will be the first time leaving the country since 2019. So I am really looking forward to it. And I wanted to make sure that you all had episodes to listen to every Monday. So this is going to be a fun one.

I was just sitting and thinking and I really wanted to talk to you all about this idea of how to have your own back. Because the thing I see so often, not only with clients, but with patients, with friends, with family, with people I care about, is how often we don’t have our own back, how often we are so self-critical. And so often we’re our own worst critic, or worst enemy. We don’t have our own back. In fact, we have the opposite. It’s like we’re being mean to ourselves.

So not having your own back in this case, means doubting yourself, talking negatively to yourself about yourself, and not supporting yourself, not supporting you. It can sound like telling yourself that what you’re doing is wrong. Or how you’re doing it is wrong. Maybe like life, maybe you’re just doing life wrong. It can be like telling yourself that what you want is wrong, right? All of it. I would like to suggest that this cycle of beating yourself up is not useful, really ever. I don’t think it helps us. I don’t think it helps you.

Beating yourself up hurts you. The way you know you’re doing it is it sort of feels like slapping yourself in the face. That’s how you know you’re doing it. It hurts. It may hurt a lot, it may not hurt very much at all, you may be very used to it, you may not even notice it very much. Wishing you were different than you are is another sort of sneaky way of thinking there’s something wrong with you. And that you should be better or different, or that if you were different, you would be better. I still do this in some areas and I’m working on it. Right? One way to do that sometimes is wishing I didn’t tend to be impatient, that somehow, if I weren’t impatient, I would be a better person. And I just noticed it and I question it. What if that’s not true? What if I can just like myself that I am impatient? What if I can love the fact that I am impatient at times right? Or that I get impatient? Working on it, work in progress.

But I just want to suggest, what if there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, or me? Guess what? Spoiler, right? There isn’t. I really believe that. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with me. There’s nothing about you or me that’s really worth hating on or not appreciating. What if that was how we approached ourselves and our life? Can we notice how much there is to love about ourselves? I know there’s so much to love about you and there’s so much to love about me and everyone.

I think sometimes it’s hard, right? Just being a human being, being on this planet. It’s not like we got an instruction manual. We don’t always know what’s about to come our way. That’s pretty normal. Can we make it easier for ourselves by going easier on ourselves? I love that question. Can we make it easier for ourselves, living our lives, doing everything that we do, by going easier on ourselves? Many of us come to self-help and self-improvement and coaching because of some subtle or maybe not so subtle sense of there being something wrong with us. I know I’ve spoken about this before, I seriously used to lurk in the self-help zone and just think, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so messed up.” I didn’t know what was wrong with me. But I was pretty sure there was something wrong with me, or probably a lot of things wrong with me.

So you can just notice, is that you? Is that something that you resonate with? There’s an Australian meditation teacher named Bob Sharples, who described this in a beautiful way, as the subtle aggression of self-improvement. I love that phrase, the subtle aggression of self-improvement, this constant urge to make ourselves into a “better version” of ourselves. I’m air quoting, you can’t see, but this better version of ourselves, if only we could be different than we are, we would be better, we could approve of ourselves then.

But when that desire to change and grow comes from a place of being not good enough, of thinking that we are not good enough, like, we feel that our life isn’t good enough, or we’re not good enough, then the internal stress of that belief will be sort of constantly present in the background. You can’t sort of self-help your way out of that into approval of yourself, that’s really using self-improvement and coaching against yourself, is to believe that if I could only change, then I could approve of myself, versus the real ninja move here is to approve of yourself first. I would say having your own back, accepting and approving of your life in this moment, and of this moment in your life and yourself, just as we are right now, then change can happen from a very different place.

So can we start with accepting and approving of ourselves and our life, everything just as it is, and from that place, then it’s much easier to change if we want to. Not because we think we’ll be better and we’ll approve of ourselves more, but just because we want to. There are two quotes that resonate with me about this. The first is from psychologist Carl Rogers. And he wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.”’ And the second quote I love is from a Zen teacher named Shenmue Suzuki, and he writes, “Each of you is perfect the way you are, and you can use a little improvement.” And I love that; each of you is perfect the way you are, and you can use a little improvement.

So those are sort of the two paradoxical ways of thinking about this. But again, I just wanted to offer somebody ideas I have about how to have your own back. And what I did was really reflect about beliefs I have, that served me well. And that have really helped me have my own back and not beat myself up, and not talk negatively to myself about myself, and how to not tell myself that how I’m doing it is wrong. And that has really changed everything for me. It’s made this work so much more fun, it’s made life so much more fun. It’s just made everything a whole lot more fun. So without further ado, I’m going to go through my list of “how to have your own back.”

So number one, don’t beat yourself up. Just stop. No beating yourself up. It’s sort of like a zero tolerance policy at schools for bullying. Don’t be a bully to yourself. That leads into number two, which is don’t be mean to yourself. Can you improve your self-talk soundtrack in your head? What is that self-talk soundtrack? Are you critical of yourself? Is that mostly what that voice in your head is telling you? You did it wrong. That wasn’t good. You should do that better, right? All of that. So those are sort of similar. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t be mean to yourself.


Number three, is be your own cheerleader. I think about this a lot, actually. What if you had a cheerleader that just followed you around and every time you did everything, they just cheered? You got out of bed. Yay! You made it to work. Yay! You’re seeing patients. Yay! Well done you! You’re having coffee. Yay! All of it. What if everything you did was worthy of being cheered on, right? Just for living your life. Sometimes it’s hard to get up and go to work and see patients. Sometimes it’s even hard to make coffee. Sometimes things happen. Sometimes I spill the coffee, then I clean it up, right? I might cheer myself on for that.

Can you be your own cheerleader? Or do you tend to criticize yourself? One of my clients was just saying she tends to be the hall monitor, and notice all the problems and all the things going wrong. Giving up demerits. Way more fun to be your own cheerleader, and then you can be other people’s cheerleader, too. It doesn’t mean you have to be a Pollyanna about everything. But what’s wrong with that? Maybe try it on.

Number four, on how to have your own back, is can you do things today to set future you up for success? So I think about this a lot, how can I set future Sara up for success? A lot of that has to do with going to bed on time, honestly, that’s what I think about a lot. When my little go- to-bed reminder comes on is, how Sara tomorrow morning is going to feel if I stay up watching Netflix more, or stay up late, or have another glass of wine, when I know that drinking wine after eight doesn’t do me any favors.

Can you do other things to set future you up for success? Maybe manage your time, work on your calendar? I think about it in regards to saying no to things that future me isn’t going to want to do. Sometimes we’re sort of caving in the moment and say yes, even when it’s not really something we want to do. That’s very different than sometimes agreeing to do something that you really want to do, and knowing that in the moment that it comes due, you might not want to do it, but you want to have done it.

But can you say no to things that you don’t really want to do now or in the future? What are other ways you can set future you up for success? Maybe that looks like declining extra call? Maybe that looks like changing your clinic schedule or your clinical practice? Maybe that looks like planning some vacation time or downtime, right? If that’s something that you struggle with. How can you set yourself up for future success? How can you make the future even better for you?

Number five, give yourself permission. I love this, I was actually going to make this a whole podcast episode. But give yourself permission. I give myself permission for all sorts of things, right? I give myself permission to mess things up. I give myself permission to sometimes change my mind. I give myself permission to choose things again. I give myself permission to sometimes be lazy, and sometimes work too much. I just give myself permission to be me, and to do all the things. I give myself permission to not have to and have all the answers. I give myself permission to decide to leave a perfectly good job if I want to. I give myself permission to enjoy myself and enjoy life. I give myself permission to do have wine that I like and food that I like and hang out with friends that I like.

I guess it’s a weird thing to give myself permission for. But you could notice what it would look like to give yourself permission for anything and everything you want. I give myself permission to want what I want and to like what I like and to not have to justify my decisions to other people, or even to myself.

Number six, forgive yourself, specifically your younger self. I was thinking about that. What were the things I needed to forgive myself for? They were pretty much things my younger self did. I will definitely do a podcast episode on forgiveness. I love the idea that what if there’s really nothing to forgive? I think forgiveness comes from this idea that things should have gone a different way or I should have done things differently. I should have done them better. Maybe I should have known what the consequences would be, and I think all of those aren’t true. I really believe that I’ve always done my best and sometimes my best was maybe not that amazing. Wasn’t that great? And that’s okay. I really believe that I couldn’t have done things differently than I did them.

And of course, I know that I couldn’t have known what the consequences were of any decision I made. We just don’t know. We can make some best guesses. So can you forgive your younger self? What if you did it right? What if you did it exactly to the best of your ability? What if you needed that younger self to make all those decisions to get you to be who you are now? Can you forgive yourself? Can you forgive yourself in the future for whatever you might say or do that you might wish you had said and done differently. What if you just give yourself a blank forgiveness prescription? Notice how that might feel.

Number seven, on how to have your own back, put yourself first. It goes right along with number eight, please yourself. Why not put yourself first? It doesn’t mean you have to put yourself first at other people’s expense. It’s not being mean to other people. But can you prioritize yourself? Do you prioritize yourself? Or do you always prioritize other people? And do you want to write maybe just notice, what if it’s not putting yourself first in opposition to someone else? What if putting yourself first is just totally fine? Or at least put yourself high up on your priority list?

And then coming back to number eight, please yourself. What if you just checked in with what you want? What would make you happy? What it is you want to do? Are you always checking in with other people and what they want? Are you always pleasing, or trying to please other people? Sometimes that makes me happy, right, doing things for other people that I think they might like. But are you doing it at your own expense? That’s always my question. Can I please myself? When I make myself happy, it sets other people free to make themselves happy, to follow their own happiness. I don’t need other people to make me happy. I please myself.

Number nine, I would encourage you to make your own rules. And the caveat of that is to stop following other people’s rules. What if we just get to make up our own rules in life? I’m not suggesting that there aren’t consequences for the things we choose to do. But just notice if you’re following other people’s rules, other people’s expectations, if you’re following cultural norms that maybe don’t fit for you. Can you make your own rules? Are you okay with that? And maybe just notice, what are some of the rules out there that you’re following that you no longer want to, that don’t make any sense? Maybe rules you grew up with, maybe rules from society or culture. I’ve heard these described as brules, that’s B-R-U-L-E-S. Brules, which stands for “bullshit rules,” right? Make your own rules. Stop following the brules out there. I love that term, too.

Anyway, number 10 of how to have your own back - Approve of yourself. And that includes your body. What if you just approved of yourself? How you think, how you are, what you look like, all of it? What is the downside, really? All day long, people come in, right? I’m a dermatologist, they come in, and they tell me all the things they don’t like about their body. It happens when they’re 20, when they’re 30, when they’re 40, when they’re 50, when they’re 60, when they’re 70. What if we just approved of ourselves? What if we just decided to like ourselves, approve of ourselves? What if we decided not to make ourselves wrong? What if we decided to be proud of ourselves? So number 10, approve of yourself, don’t make yourself wrong. Be proud of you. It’s all sort of tied in there.

And then the last one that sort of sums it up, it’s a bonus one, my ideas about how to have your own back, is what if you could just know that you are 100% worthy, just as you are? The way I like to think about this is that, you know, I didn’t create me, I didn’t have any responsibility for my genes, for any of that, for my creation, whatever you believe about creation. I didn’t create me, right. I was born and I got the body I got, I got the mind that I got. I’ve done what I can with both of them, of course, but I didn’t create myself. So what if I just accept myself? And maybe I’m exactly how I’m supposed to be.

Can you try that on? You didn’t create you. What would it be like to just accept yourself, and that you’re exactly how you’re supposed to be. And you’re worthy, just as you are. You don’t have to prove yourself. You don’t have to earn your place here. You don’t have to do anything to deserve to be here. You’re just here, just like me, just like all of us. What would it look like to have your own back and know you’re worthy, just as you are, sort of, to let yourself off the hook of all of this earning and deserving, all of it?

So that’s what I have for you, folks. I love talking about this. And these are all things that I’ve noticed have really shifted for me in the last 10 or 15 years and that have had a huge impact on how I show up and how I feel about myself. I mean, I really love being able to tell myself, that I think I’m amazing. And I think you’re amazing, too. I think we’re all amazing. So all of this is, again, how to have your own back, not at other people’s expense and not because any of us is better than someone else. But just because we’re all amazing. We’re all amazing people just as we are.

Okay, send me an email if you have any comments or questions. If this is something that you need help with, please, please, please send me an email or set up a free consultation call. I would love to help you work on having your own back. Life is too short. None of us knows how long we have. Why not stop beating ourselves up, stop being mean to ourselves, become our own cheerleaders. Do things today to set future you up for success. Give yourself permission for all the things. Forgive yourself, both your younger self and your future self, and maybe your current self. Put yourself first. Please yourself. Make your own rules and stop following other people’s roles. Approve of yourself and stop making yourself wrong. And know that you’re 100% worthy just as you are. All right, everyone, I will talk to you soon.

If you are a busy practicing physician ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more, and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at That’s It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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