I am usually quite hard on myself. I half-jokingly refer to myself as a “nervous pervous” for no reason other than it rhymes and it’s a cute way to say I am heckin’ anxious.
Last year, I thought I was doing better. I was being nicer to myself. Then a giant sledgehammer called COVID goofed up my hard-earned equilibrium. Though I didn’t know it last year, I realize now that what I was starting to do is called self compassion.
During this time of stress and loneliness, self compassion is vital.
Whenever I am worried about something like “omg, is society collapsing?” I comfort myself by saying, “It is normal to worry about your health and safety during this stressful time. Even if this time is tumultuous and the future is uncertain, mankind has lived for thousands of years. We will make it through, even if we can’t determine what the future holds.”
Though I don’t always remember to do this, it does prevent me from having a straight up panic attack on a day to day basis.
As I mentioned in my Cats + Mental Health series, treat yourself like you would a kitten, because no one can be mean to a kitten. And you shouldn’t be mean to yourself either!
In Western culture, we like to punish ourselves in order to ‘motivate’ ourselves, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you read Kristen Neff’s book, you can see all the studies she did that prove that people who are self compassionate are actually MORE effective at accomplishing their goals, because they aren’t afraid to fail. They aren’t going to punish themselves if and when they fail, so they don’t need to be afraid. They realize everyone fails sometimes, and failure is not connected to self worth. What better reason do you need to be nice to yourself?
After years of ‘punishing’ and ‘motivating’ yourself, it can be hard to believe that you are allowed to be nice to yourself. It can feel selfish. But again, would you say such mean things to your best friend? To a child? To a kitten? I hope not!
Even if you believe it’s selfish, hear me out: whether you punish yourself or are nice to yourself, the end result is the same. Your actions will be the same. So would you rather feel anxious or compassionate?
If it’s too hard to ‘talk to yourself’ at first, imagine your best friend saying kind words to you when you need them. Your friend believes you are worthy of kindness, and it’s true.
And if you are more motivated by being compassionate to others, here’s another twist: if you are nice to yourself, you will be nicer to others.
I used to be critical of myself, therefore I was critical of others. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, or why it was happening. I tried so hard not to ‘slip up’. Any failure of mine reflected directly on my self worth, so failure had to be avoided at all costs. Whenever I saw someone else ‘slipping up’, I would be quick to judge, because I judged myself so harshly. “How dare they get away with failing! I try so hard not to fail lest someone point out my shortcomings, so no one else is allowed to mess up without being berated!” was essentially my thought process. I would be so angry that no one came down on them as hard as I came down on myself. When you accept yourself and are kind to yourself, you will do the same to others.
Next time you ‘fail’, remember that all humans make mistakes, and you’re okay. Imagine a family member or friend saying exactly what you need to hear in that moment. Be gentle with yourself, you are worthy.