What does it mean to have your own back?

When someone else tells us they have our back, it means they are telling us that no matter what happens, they will be on our side.

Having our own back means committing to being our own ally.

It means that we choose to meet ourselves with compassion when we mess up, fall short, or are rejected in any way.

Most of us don’t have our own back in these situations. Instead, we beat ourselves up.

We tell ourselves all the reasons we aren’t good enough and produce our own shame.

In other words, we train ourselves not to trust ourselves.

Then it’s easy for us to convince ourselves not to try new things. We prefer to hide our talent rather than risk creating something that might be criticized. We hide from people that might not accept, understand, or value us.

We sabotage ourselves now so we don’t have to risk feeling bad about ourselves later. In essence, we fail ahead of time.

Crazy, right?

Here’s what I want you to know and remember:

There is no upside to negative self-talk.

It doesn’t eliminate future mistakes.

It doesn’t fix anything that’s already happened.

It doesn’t turn us into a better human being.

Treating ourselves unkindly is never useful.


Yet most of us regularly practice being mean to ourselves.

Making a plan to have your own back

The good news is we can learn to meet ourselves with compassion. Having our own back is a skill we can master by creating a plan.

We can decide ahead of time what loving messages we will give ourselves when we experience failure or rejection. Then we can practice loving ourselves unconditionally.

This means accepting that we are worthy and lovable regardless of what we do or what happens in our lives.

We can be our own fan club

My great-grandma taught me about unconditional love when I was very young. She was encouraged me to challenge myself by learning how to say the ABC’s backward. Mistakes were never a problem. As the leader of my fan club, she genuinely rooted for me.

From where she stood, I was simply amazing.

She often said to me, “I love you more than anyone else and don’t you ever forget it.”

I knew there wasn’t anything I could do (or not do) that would lead her to love me less. I was absolutely safe in our relationship.

What if we would all treat ourselves like my great-grandma treated me?

If we did, this is what our self-talk might sound like:

I’m safe with me.

There is no failure; there is only learning.

I’m human, I’m imperfect, and that’s ok.

I’m 100% lovable in my imperfection.

Not everyone has to love me because I love me.

Life is challenging enough without beating myself up.

I choose to meet myself with compassion. Always.

I support me.

I have my own back.

Love leads to safety and growth

Some people worry that we won’t try to be better if we love ourselves when we mess up.

The truth is self-punishment never enlarges our capacity to love and to grow; only self-compassion can do that.

We cannot hate ourselves into becoming a loving human and we cannot hate ourselves toward personal growth.

Loving ourselves in our imperfection means we recognize that we are so much more than the sum total of our behavior.

When we don’t continuously need to prove our worth, we have more energy to try new things and add value to the world.

With a self-compassion mindset, we can move from a state of fearing failure to a state of being willing to fail. When we have our own back, we know we’re covered should anything go wrong.

It’s easier to love others, too, because we aren’t depending on their approval. When we don’t need them to validate us, we can relax and let other people be themselves.

Post-Mormon application

Having our own back is an especially valuable skill to have as we interact with believing family and friends. It’s reasonable to expect that those who see the LDS church as “the one true” church will not be able to see any valid reason for leaving. Of course, many will see a decision to step away from the church as wrong.

When we have our own back, we can let others be wrong about us. We can think to ourselves, “They don’t get me. But that’s ok. I got me. I can love me and I can love them. Who better than me to add love to the world?”

That’s freeing!

When we decide no one needs to earn love and we choose to give it, we empower ourselves and provide safety for others. There isn’t any downside to love.

We have a lifetime to practice self-compassion

Having our own back doesn’t come naturally to most of us, but that’s ok.

This is a skill we learn by practicing.

And we don’t have to do it perfectly.

Every time we don’t get it right is another opportunity to love ourselves. With this mindset, there is no way to lose.