Ever since Tom and Donna introduced me to the concept of “treat yo self” (which, for anyone who isn’t aware, is the anthem), I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. While the Parks & Rec gang focused on material things like buying clothes and fragrances, ultimately what the whole “treat yourself” philosophy means to me is very simply: be kind to yourself.
Being kind to yourself is much more than just letting yourself eat a cupcake – it’s about offering yourself the sort of kindness that you would unquestionably give to your best friend even when she’s at the lowest of times. It’s very easy to hold yourself to certain standards of being, whether that means standards of intelligence or creativity or beauty or popularity. But what often happens is that these standards are very difficult to attain and maintain, or there are other people out there better at it than you are, and suddenly these little monsters of self-doubt, fear-of-failure and embarrassment creep their way into your mind. The goal then, is to acknowledge those monsters (yes hello, thank you for stopping by) and then to kindly ask them to leave.
Once you start figuring out little ways to trust yourself, admire yourself and forgive yourself, you begin to fear these monsters a little less. You begin to feel braver about trying new things, and you stop denying yourself the opportunities that scare you. Because you no longer need to worry about disappointing your biggest critic: yourself.
This year I am trying really hard to be mindful of how I speak to myself, how I ask myself to achieve things and how I value myself as a person, and I hope you will also embark on this challenge with me. Next time I start feeling down about my assignment, or anxious about sharing something online, or afraid to tell someone how I feel, I will tell myself the following:
“I support myself, I have faith in my own abilities of which I have many,
and I will not scold myself if it doesn’t work out.”
I know it sounds silly, but in the same way that having supporting parents or teachers or friends will make you feel more confident, having a supportive inner self will make you shine! I truly, truly believe that.
1. TRUST YOURSELF
When I was in High School, I used to get a lot of anxiety over exams and assignments. I remember sitting in my bedroom crying over English essays while this little monster inside my head told me it wasn’t good enough, it didn’t make any sense, it was embarrassing and I should never let anyone, not even my teacher, read this. So, as you can imagine, graduating into the kind of person who shares what she writes on the Internet was a huge step for me that took a lot and a lot of time. The key, my dear friends, was trust.
I needed to trust my abilities. It was the first step to defeating those monsters. By having faith in my capabilities which had not failed me before, I allowed myself a kindness and friendship that I wouldn’t have thought twice about giving to my best friend. This kind of trust needs to be extended to all aspects of my life, whether that means in my approach to studying or dating or exercising or writing: trusting that I am smart enough, funny enough, creative enough, strong enough. It all comes down to trust, and giving yourself that trust even when things seem risky and frightening. Especially when things seem risky and frightening.
2. ADMIRE YOURSELF
People spend a lot of time idolising other people. That girl is perfect, that boy is so creative and deep, that lady has her life together. And of course, there will always be people you meet who offer something to the world that you wish to one day offer. But something that I’m trying to remind myself is, when pitting yourself against someone else, you are pitting everything you know about yourself (your flaws, your fears, your insecurities, your embarrassments, your failures) against someone else’s filtered portrayal of herself. How on Earth did you think you were going to win that one?
To combat this very human tendency, I think by actively, mindfully admiring yourself is the greatest way to be kind to yourself and become a better person at the same time. It’s a bizarre exercise because our culture encourages humility, but I want to try admiring the things that I do and am proud of doing. So I want to give myself permission to believe that I am intelligent, and witty, and thoughtful, and interesting and a hundred other things that I hope I am. And what’s fantastic about this exercise is that, even if I’m not some of these things just yet, I have a better chance of being them if I believe that I am. In the same way that, by publicly declaring yourself as a humanitarian, you begin to alter your behaviour to become a humanitarian – privately declaring to yourself that you are kind or selfless or hilarious will help you become just that! And you’ll be feeling good about yourself the whole damn time, so what’s there to lose?
3. FORGIVE YOURSELF
This becomes the MOST IMPORTANT part of this whole process: forgiving yourself. Because here’s the kicker, despite what I have just told you about trusting yourself and admiring yourself, very very often you end up failing. You might trust yourself and hand in that assignment even though you had some doubts about it. You might admire yourself by telling yourself that you are an above-average writer who is quite good at putting her arguments into a coherent structure. But somewhere along the way something might just go wrong, and you might receive a disappointing grade for that assignment.
The response then, is NOT to stop trusting yourself, or stop admiring yourself. The response is to FORGIVE YOURSELF. Forgive that, even in a moment of trust, you were not able to deliver. Forgive that, even though you think you are intelligent, in that moment you weren’t able to perform. And then, you move on.
By being forgiving, you give yourself permission to fail. You rid yourself of that pressure to succeed which is the root to all fear and anxiety. You give yourself the opportunity to try new things in pursuit of meaning and significance in this world, and if that isn’t being truly, wholesomely kind to yourself then I don’t know what is.
These 3 steps are not easy, I still have to consciously tell myself to do these things every day and sometimes it’s too late and I end up crying in bed and kicking myself over failures. But I know that one day I will be able to be kind to myself by default, and I hope you give yourself permission to do so too.