Let me start by telling you that this is by far one of the most difficult posts to write. Some days I have words streaming out of my fingertips, but this post was definitely not one of those. It took me 3 days and countless start-overs to get this all out on paper. Maybe it was a sign that I should practice what I preach. Why tell you to be kind to yourself when I can’t be kind to myself?
So that’s what I did. The first day I started writing this, I felt completely off. I was sad for no reason, and just felt weird. I did not seem to be able to get myself out of it. So instead, I closed my laptop and decided to fill the rest of the day with things I enjoyed doing. Anything that would make me feel better. So I danced around to my favorite music. I played the sims and ate chocolate. Watched gilmore girls and polished my nails. And when I went to bed, I felt great. I was so happy I gave myself that space to become happier. Because when you’re happy, life is a lot easier.
My point is, you need to be kind to yourself. We are so kind to others, and usually put their needs above our own. We recognize when someone else needs a break, and we urge them to take it. Our friend that has been studying her ass off. Our other friend who has had a rough time at work. The friend that is going through a breakup. We tell them to take their time and do something fun. Pamper themselves a little. But for ourselves?
We think we need to push through it. It’s not a big deal. It will be fine. It’s only temporary, right? But all those temporary situations form one big permanent situation. A mindset where we can’t take a break. Where we have to deserve that treat. If we don’t finish the project today, we don’t deserve a break. We need to keep going, even though we’re exhausted. But what you really need, is to be kind to yourself.
So I tried to get into the psychology of our behaviour. Why are we so hard on ourselves, but kind to others? Why is it that we cannot give ourselves a break or don’t perceive ourselves as worthy?
Some of it has to do with our negativity bias *. Most of us are naturally more inclined to see the negatives in life, but also in ourselves. We see our negatives a lot more than we see our positives. One explanation for it is evolutionary *. In order to prevent ourselves from making mistakes that could cost us our lives, we have to notice the mistakes we make. AKA, focus on our mistakes and failures.
Powered by society, we set ridiculously high expectations for ourselves and beat ourselves up when we can’t live up to them. We don’t even realize that these expectations are almost impossible, and the people we see represent them are the exception rather than the rule.
But this negativity towards ourselves can seriously interfere with our quality of life. It can eat away at our self-esteem and make us less confident. It can decrease our productivity. It can increase anxiety and even lead to depression. Let me say that again: You can literally think yourself into a depression. *
So it’s time to make a change. To stop being so hard on yourself and start to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your best friend or a child. But how do you do this?
Recognize how you feel. Do you feel frustrated, annoyed and irritated? Definitely time to take a break. Even if it’s only 10 minutes, do something you enjoy. Eat chocolate, dance around, go for a walk, read a chapter in your book. Do a 10-minute headstand if that’s what makes you feel good. Just get out of your own brain and give it some time to calm down. Usually, when you get hard on yourself you get frustrated and annoyed or even anxious, and none of that is helpful in any situation. Being kind to yourself can even help you grow more than being hard on yourself can. So take that break.
There are a couple of things that are said to help you be kind to yourself:
Meditation. This can help seeing different perspectives in the situation, and will help you handle your emotions better. It is easier to take a step back and see things in the bigger picture.
Can you change the situation? If not, try to let it go. The past is the past, and no amount of worrying or beating yourself up is going to change that. If you can do anything to improve the situation, try to do that.
Stop focusing on the things that went wrong, and focus on things you did right. Find at least 3 things you did well or things that generally went well. Reroute your thinking by focusing on positive things.
Realize how much better you feel when you let yourself take that break or when you are kind to yourself, compared to when you’re beating yourself up. By doing this, you can train your brain to go the other direction and slowly stop beating yourself up automatically. This is the best action to make a long-term difference.
Whenever you notice that you’re being hard on yourself, think of what you’d tell your friend, and tell yourself just that. Take a step back, and focus on the positive things. Notice how much better you feel. Go for a walk or get something to eat. Plan a self-care day or practice self-love. Take yourself on a date if you are able to. If necessary, you can return to the situation later. But first, be kind to yourself.