It is a common experience that as we are growing up we are encouraged to treat others like we would ourselves. In this two part blog post, I (Emily) will share my journey on how I'm learning to be kind to myself, each moment at a time.
Have you ever stopped to think about how you actually treat yourself day to day? And what would happen if you treated others as you treated yourself?
Would you tell your friend the thoughts you tell yourself as you walk past a mirror?
When you can't get something done?
That she's not worth the effort or stupid for thinking something different?
That she can't do anything right and shouldn't even try?
I couldn't imagine saying any of these things to someone else because I believe that we have an opportunity to encourage and support others around us, not bring them down. But why do we constantly speak these thoughts to ourselves? And believe them?
I feel like I am constantly learning about how to be kind to myself, moment to moment. And I'm not just talking bubble baths, chocolate and massages. (Although they may make the occasional appearance). I'm taking about each second, action, thought and belief that has the opportunity to encourage or discourage you. It is a daily challenge that can be for you or to you. It's your choice.
So how do you start being kind to yourself? It's not about letting yourself do whatever you want, whenever you want. Nor is it trapping yourself into unrealistic expectations to be a better you. For me, being kind to myself, is about a balance between being encouraging, supportive, flexible, understanding, motivating, prioritising, looking out for and celebrating me. Although that list is not exhaustive and limited to those things, they are sort of the functions I like to picture when I think about being kind to myself. The big question is- how do I achieve all that on a daily basis? It's easier said than done, but I've found that it's all about choice, discipline and learning to listen to my thoughts. And a lot of self awareness.
Self awareness (being aware of who you are, for better or for worse) can let you take a bird's eye view of yourself. Being aware of the parts that can shape who you are and who you perceive who you are, is amazing, but things can get complicated. I can be as equally a perfectionist, procrastinator, liberator, ostrich (not face anything and enjoy keeping my head in the sand), critic, opportunist, creator and pessimist. There are so many ways I can view my actions and parts of my life with varying expectations and consequences. And left unchecked, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get anything done. More importantly, I would be unaware that I was limiting my capacity and capability of being myself in a present moment.
Not everyone reading this article may identify with being an ostrich or procrastinator. And the beautiful thing about self awareness is that it is perfectly okay that you don't. Why? Self awareness is of course about the awareness of you- your self- you will have experiences and animals that are unique to you. Although we will all experience different challenges, we all share the experience of changing how we think about and treat ourselves. And it is amazing to witness the transformation in people (and realising you've changed yourself!) when they have made the choice to be kind to themselves.
In my next blog post I will be sharing some of the strategies that help me choose me each day. But before that post I'd like to encourage you to start to think about how you treat yourself. Over the next few days, start thinking about how you think about yourself and reflect on the effects it may have on you. What do you think/say when someone compliments you? When your stressed? When you make a mistake? When you feel good? When you're having a bad day? And how do you think your reaction to these thoughts/beliefs shape who you are in the moment and in the long run?
These are all big questions and I've found it is useful for me to write down (or put in my phone) things as they happen throughout the day. They may not be obvious at first and it is challenging to start realising automatic thoughts. If self awareness and being kind to yourself all sound great but you have no idea where to start, Reach Out has fantastic articles and activities that will help you get on your way!
I'm looking forward to sharing some of the things that have given me the choice to be kind to myself each day. If you have any tips/strategies that have helped you, we'd love to hear about them!
- Em x