“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” – Unknown
With all the hustle bustle of Valentine’s Day comes depressed feelings and anxiety for many. Too often, we define ourselves by who we are in a relationship with, who our friends are, the thoughts of ‘Keeping Up with the Jones’s,’ so-to-speak. And this ‘culture of perfectionism’ and social media?! It’s no wonder it’s hard to sort everything out. And there’s different kinds of love: romantic love, friendship…but there’s also another important kind: self-love.
It can be hard to talk about ourselves favorably. Sometimes we think about things we’ve done and feel guilt or shame, we judge ourselves harshly and it turns into feelings of failure and low self-worth. Sometimes it’s easier to hold hope for others instead-but it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves! Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy, with self-criticism and disapproval, but would you say those things to a friend? Of course not! Treat yourself the way you treat those you care about! And that starts with having self-compassion.
What is self-compassion? In the simplest terms, self-compassion means being kind to yourself, being gentle and supportive, and establishing a positive voice that can reason with you when you’re upset or having feelings of self-doubt. Kristin Neff, PhD, says we need to recognize the situation, resist negative thoughts, humanize yourself through empathic language, and commit to positive self-talk. You are not your experiences, your mental illness, or your past and there is no such thing as normal! Ese Moynihan-Ejaife, LMHC, reminds us that emotions are normal and important and although we don’t enjoy the ‘bad feelings’ as much as the pleasant ones, each emotion can provide a important lesson and challenges your preconceived notions about yourself in order to change you in a good way!
Self-compassion is hard! It’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it. Self-criticism can lead to a weakened immune system, relationship and motivation issues, and increased symptoms of depression. But self-kindess is an important skill for all of us to learn and use daily. Kim Fredrickson says: ‘It’s a process and it takes a while to learn, but it’s worth every effort. It changes you in a positive way and it lasts a lifetime.’
So how do you turn your inner critic into a compassionate friend and give yourself a break? Let’s start with some positive affirmations. Affirmations are statements of support and encouragement that can help get you through tough times and refocus your energy in a positive direction. Muhammad Ali said that ‘it’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.’ Everyone probably has a few phrases that mean a lot to them, but here’s some to get you started:
–Just keep swimming… (Finding Nemo)
-I am strong. I am worthy. I am loved. I am enough.
-Be brave. Stay strong.
–You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. (Winnie the Pooh)
-I forgive myself and set myself free.
-What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
–You are capable of amazing things.
-If you believe in yourself, anything is possible. (Miley Cyrus)
-Everything will be okay in the end. If it is not okay, it is not the end.
-Confidence comes from what I feel about myself. (Demi Lovato)
–You are stronger than your circumstances.
Remember, self-love is not narcissistic or self-indulgent; it is an important component of mental health! Empower yourself: focus on building self-respect and allow yourself space to make mistakes, learn, and grow. You are you! It’s okay to not be okay! It’s okay to be whoever you are! You’re never alone!
Self-love is crucial because your external world will reflect how you feel about yourself. Self-love also gives you a safety net to take risks and go after your dreams, because you know that no matter what the outcome, you’ll be OK — your self-worth is not on the line.
In closing, LOVE YOURSELF! Love doesn’t come once a year-it comes every day with how you treat yourself and how you share the joys of life with those important to you! Don’t give up!
For more information, check out Kim Fredrickson’s book, Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend.
Information compiled from Self-Compassion: The Kindess Cure by Robin Flanigan in Esperanza magazine and The Little-Known Secret to Real Self-Love by Elyse Santilli for The Huffington Post. Image credits to the Sad Ghost Club, Danyelle Hooks, and Alexandra’s Sunset Photography.