For the past couple of years, I have actively worked on being kinder to myself. I have made some huge strides in this department, but recently I backslid bigtime and noticed that I was beating myself up about literally ev-er-y-thing, big or small.
If I were to play armchair therapist with myself, I’d say it was brought on by my job change a few months ago. In summary, I had gotten to a point where I felt like my job was my entire life, and I made a career change this past spring to allow myself to find a better balance. But even though it was a change for the better, I felt hugely disappointed with myself at the time. I have always pictured myself as someone whose life would revolve around her career, and I felt like I was letting myself down by veering off the track that I had laid out in my mind.
That disappointment trickled down into all aspects of my life. I started subconsciously telling myself that I wasn’t good enough; that I wasn’t a good enough fiancé, daughter, sister, friend, pet-owner; that I wasn’t good at my current job; that I wasn’t good at my old job; that my body wasn’t good enough; that I wasn’t funny enough; that I wasn’t pretty enough; that I wasn’t a good enough runner; the list goes on. I was filled with shame and anxiety. And then it turned into a vicious cycle. I would think, “This was something that was supposed to make me happier. Why am I not happier? I should be happier.” And then I would beat myself up about that. By the time I realized what was going on I was in a deep spiral, and I knew that getting out of it would take some work, and that I would need to be deliberate and proactive about it. I dusted off every old trick I had for dealing with the anxiety I was feeling, and I went in search of some fresh advice about ridding myself of this self-judgment.
The thing that resonated most with me was this TED talk by Shauna Shapiro that my mom shared with me. I highly recommend watching the whole thing, but there was one part that really stuck with me. Every morning when you wake up, put your hand over your heart, and then (out loud!) say good morning to yourself, and tell yourself “I love you.” I promise that you will feel…absolutely ridiculous. It sounds silly and it feels silly. But it truly makes a difference. As she did, I started with just the good morning. Eventually I worked my way up to good morning + I love you. Still felt silly, but it did help. Over the course of a couple of months, I began to give myself grace again, and things improved, and I let this practice dwindle.
But of course, life is all about peaks and valleys. The past week has brought some unexpected hardships and suddenly I feel like I’m failing myself again. On top of that, my skin has been breaking out like crazy; I sprained my ankle and I haven’t been able to work out; my hair has been falling out in clumps; I swear I’ve gotten three new wrinkles, and I haven’t accomplished the things I’ve wanted to accomplish. And I’ve been judging myself for all of it.
So once again I’ve had to renew my focus on being kind to me. The other day I woke up and forced myself to say good morning, and I love you. It didn’t work. It just felt so disingenuous. I gave it a few more days…still no. I thought about it for a while. Why didn’t it make me feel even the slightest bit better? And then it dawned on me. I am admittedly a perfectionist and I work very hard to be the best version of myself that I can be, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I realized that what I was truly saying before was that I love the good things about you. I love you now. I still harbored all these fears and negative feelings about what I might be in the future; I just vowed to keep them from happening.
So yesterday, I added something to my message to myself. I thought about all of the things that I don’t like about myself or that I fear for myself, and I said “Good morning, I love you. I will love you if you have acne. I will love you if you gain weight. I will love you when your hair gets thin. I will love you no matter how many wrinkles you have.” I said it in my head – I haven’t worked my way up to out loud. But it helped a little, and maybe if I keep saying it, it will help a lot.
If you are having a hard time being kind to yourself, I strongly encourage you to work through feeling ridiculous and give it a try. Even though it’s hard, try to be your own biggest cheerleader. Try to be kind to yourself and tell yourself the kind of things you would tell the person that you love the most in the world. Because you are enough, and the only person who can convince you of that is you.