DBT Skills: Be Excellent To Yourselves

You might recall that the last time we DBTed together we talked about calming our tits with GIVE. Today we have yet another acronym in the final skill of the Interpersonal Effectiveness module. While the last two skills have been focused on other people, today’s skill is about self-respect in relationships. One of the hardest things to do when trying to have a relationship with another person is balancing their needs with your own without prioritizing one person too heavily. It’s easy to see this when you ignore the other person’s needs, but letting yourself be steamrollered is another possibility and can be harder to address.

Of course just talking about balance is vague and generally unhelpful. What are some concrete standards we can use to see if we’re taking care of ourselves? FAST is a relatively simple way to check in on our own self behavior. To paraphrase some wise dudes, “Be excellent to yourselves”.

The F in FAST stands for be Fair (at some point I will have to explain to Marsha Linehan, the person who developed DBT, how acronyms actually work). So part of respecting yourself means being a person worthy of respect. Treat other people well and try to treat yourself well. This requires practice with compromising, using an assertive tone rather than a passive, aggressive, or passive aggressive one, and working to see that neither party is always the one sacrificing their preferences.

A is for no Apologies. This is not quite accurate: it should really be something like “no unwarranted apologies”. If you legitimately feel that you’ve done something wrong, say you’re sorry. You don’t need to do it repeatedly, but make it clear. Otherwise, don’t do it. You don’t need to apologize for who you are, for every small thing that could be misinterpreted, or for nothing at all. The more you do it the more you tell yourself you don’t deserve to take up space, or that your perception of what is actually right and wrong is skewed. If you think you did something wrong, you’ll know.

S is for Stick to values (wow, we actually acronymed appropriately). As a young human being, this can be a challenging skill because you don’t necessarily know clearly what your values are. It takes some time, particularly trial and error to figure out what values are most important to you. But it is a good idea to spend some time thinking about or writing about what you value and trying to incorporate those values into your life. Once you’ve figured them out, it might seem trite to suggest that you don’t compromise your values, but it can be surprisingly easy to do so when you’re afraid or anxious or want someone to care about you. This is a good place to insert some mindfulness: if you take the time to actually think about whether you’re acting in accordance with your values you’re far more likely to do what you’ll be happier with in the long run.

And finally, T is be Truthful. Again, something that seems simple and useless, but again, it becomes incredibly hard to respect and care about yourself if you continually avoid the truth in order to smooth things over or manipulate your relationships. Especially as young skeptics, I would suggest that truth is an important value many of you hold. Don’t let fears or relationship worries get in the way of that value. A note: being truthful does not necessarily mean saying everything that comes into your mind. Remember to balance these skills with the GIVE skills. Be gentle but also truthful.

Next week we’ll get into emotional regulation, something that is helpful at every stage, but particularly young adulthood.



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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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