We’ve heard it all before. “Speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a friend”. “Treat yourself the same way you treat the people you love.” But in reality, it’s much harder to be kind to yourself than the quotes on Pinterest would have you believe. One thing that makes it especially difficult is that we often don’t even realise just how detrimental our negative thought patterns are. We get so used to negative thoughts that we are unable to recognise when we’re self-sabotaging or projecting. Over the past few months (and years), I’ve slowly come to realise that there is immense value in making a conscious effort to be kind to myself. Here’s what I’ve learnt.
- I tend to make myself miserable. I recently watched a TEDtalk that talked about how we take things personally because we make everything about ourselves. We assume that everyone’s seemingly negative responses to us are also about us. I can relate to this deeply. As someone who struggles with anxiety and is an over-thinker of note (a simply delightful combination as I’m sure you can imagine), I tend to overanalyse everything. Honestly, it’s exhausting. The only thing I gain from it is, well, nothing. If a friend takes longer than usual to reply to my text, or they seem even a little “off”, I’m sent into a spiral of thoughts, thinking about everything I could’ve done to make them mad at me. I’ve had to train myself that not everything is about me. People can have off-days, and it can have absolutely nothing to do with me. In fact most of the time, it’s not about me. So something I’ve been working on is making an effort to flip my negative thoughts on their head. Instead of telling myself that they’re mad with me, or don’t like me or I’ve done something wrong, I’ve tried to replace it with “maybe they’re just busy or tired or stressed”. And that’s okay. Just like I can’t give everyone else my energy and attention all the time, I can’t expect other people to give me all of theirs all the time either. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it has been an incredibly necessary one.
- I always assume that people don’t like me. There is literally no basis for these thought patterns , except for my own stubborn insecurities. Sometimes, I will spend days thinking that everyone is judging me and thinking bad things about me. I’ve come to learn that this is just my own insecurity that I project onto others. Something I’m learning to do, is to believe the things that people tell me. Instead of thinking that everyone secretly hates me, I’m learning to replace these negative thoughts and believe it when people tell me that they love me or value our friendship or think I’m pretty. It is so much more peaceful and gratifying to just accept compliments and believe them, instead of assuming that people think the worst of me. It’s freeing and leaves room in my brain for much happier thoughts.
- It’s okay to fail. I hold myself to impossibly high standards and I’m sure most of us do. But sometimes, what we may perceive as a strong work ethic or ambitious goals, are just eating us alive and making everything we achieve feels subpar. Allow yourself to get things wrong. Whenever I get annoyed at myself for getting something wrong, I think about how quickly I would get bored if I was just getting everything right. It may seem obvious, but making a conscious mindset shift from seeing failure as a bad thing to seeing it as a opportunity for growth and learning to laugh it off and then work harder to get better has made it so much more rewarding when I eventually do get it right.
- Taking time off does not equate to laziness. We live in a society that glorifies the workaholic mentality. In reality, it’s unsustainable, unhealthy and takes the pleasure out of everything. It’s okay to enjoy your work. It doesn’t mean you’re working any less hard. Often, I’ve confused enjoyment with laziness. I still struggle to take a break and switch off from my academic work, but I’m starting to see that when I do, it allows me to perform at a higher level when I am working. You don’t need to earn your rest. You deserve it anyway.
- Everyone won’t like you. It can be easy to spend all your time focusing on people who aren’t your biggest fan and then forget about the hundred others you love you. I’ve often subjected myself to a fair share of people-pleasing to desperately try and make everyone like me. It’s not worth the emotional energy. I’ve made peace with the fact that I simply cannot be loved by every single person I cross paths with and that’s okay.
These are some hard lessons I’ve had to learn and I still have a long way to go. I have a long list of things I still need to work on and through. But being just a little kinder to myself has already allowed me so much more room for positive friendships, taking time for myself and has even motivated me to work harder, for me. It’s a journey and everyone’s looks slightly different. I hope you will join me in being kinder to yourself.