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Above All, Love Yourself


Photo by Raquel Lyons/Mass Media Contributor.

Imagine this: you’ve taken an exam in one of your classes, didn’t feel so great about it, and upon getting  the results back, your worst fears are answered. You did terribly and you begin to chastise yourself about the bad grade.

“You’re such an idiot.” “How could you screw this up?” “You’re a failure.” “You can’t do anything right.”

Sound familiar?

Now, imagine it was a friend of yours that came to you with the bad grade. Would you call them an idiot, a failure, or tell them they can’t do anything right?

Most likely, no, you wouldn’t. You’d probably remind them that they’ll do better next time, advising them to adopt some better studying habits. Perhaps you would try to get their mind off of the subject matter.

How can we treat others in a “top notch” way while we beat ourselves up?

In truth, I don’t know the answer. I can assure you that it’s a normal and common experience to treat ourselves poorly, even though we share kindness with those around us.

Maybe it has to do with our expectations, our ideals, or how much quicker the negative self-talk comes to us than positive self-talk. Whatever it may be, I’m here to tell you that there are ways for you to increase your positive self-talk and practice some much needed self-love.

What is self-love? Well, it’s all about treating yourself kindly, gently, with forgiveness, with understanding, and some genuine love. It’s about giving yourself some slack when you make a mistake, recognizing that all humans make mistakes. It’s about loving yourself when you just want to tear yourself apart.

Sounds huge, right? But don’t worry; there are small things we can all do each day to choose self-love over self-hate.

The first step is to be cautious of using self-hate talk.

If you notice that you’re thinking in “all or nothing” terms—catch yourself, call yourself out on it, and try to look for the shades of gray instead.

For instance, let’s say I had a twenty-page reading to do. If I got through only, say, five pages and found myself using cognitive distortion, such as the all or nothing approach, I begin to discredit myself because I didn’t do all twenty pages of the reading. I may start thinking about how the whole world is going to implode because I didn’t finish the assignment. Then I may call myself an idiot or a failure (personal attacks on myself that will decrease my sense of self-worth), which will propel me towards feeling guilty and lousy. I might even go off and procrastinate, processing those feelings for the rest of the day.

Not a very productive or healthy cycle, is it?

What might that look like if I wanted to practice self-love instead?

Well, to continue with the example above, let’s imagine that I caught myself trash talking and calling myself an idiot. I can take a moment to say, “Hey Raquel, sounds like you’re being pretty harsh with yourself. I mean, you DID read five pages. Yesterday, you weren’t able to. That is amazing. In fact, you are amazing! Maybe I just need a new song to listen to while I work on this assignment.”

Now, this change won’t happen right away, but that’s what practice and experience may one day provide you: a list of how awesome and amazing you are.

Other ways of practicing self-love include treating yourself with positive self-care. This means taking initiative on getting enough sleep, eating enough food, getting in some exercise, keeping our appointments, and making it to class.

Next, we’ll want to employ some positive coping strategies. A  few can be artwork, talking with a friend, coloring, volunteering, taking a bath, or buying something small and nice for yourself.

This last tip was mentioned in an article about self-love I found online by Elise Curtin. One day, I needed to practice some self-love after a tough day. I bought a new book to read at a little bookshop set up at South Station. That worked pretty well for me since it was a book I found interesting, artsy, and would continue to help get my mind off the parts of life that were bugging me. It was a nice, simple self-love treat!

We need to remember to be kind to ourselves. When we catch ourselves slipping into negative self-talk, we can instead realign our thinking to, “Well, I made a mistake, and as a human being, we all make mistakes. Next time, I’ll do better by doing X, Y, and Z.”

Or we can remind ourselves that in the large scheme of life, a numerical grade really doesn’t matter all that much. I mean, if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I wouldn’t be upset about my GPA. My GPA is far less significant compared to my life. I’d be more concerned with having been hit by a bus than that numerical output.

Another interesting strategy from the article I read is to have words or phrases painted on stones.

I bought two stones, one inscribed with the word “courage,” the other, “healing.” Oftentimes, I carry these stones around with me. I find them helpful and cheery to look at when I’m going through a tough time. They remind me of my journey and the courage I’ve taken along with me, as well as the healing I’m continually expanding upon.

Plainly put, at the end of the day, they are some things one holds on to. If you’ve ever felt suicidal, you’ll know how dire and important it is to have something to hold onto for one more day (or hour, or minute, or second).

Lastly, I will end this article by briefly discussing a self-love activity I learned from one of my hospitalizations. The activity depicts imagining yourself hurt. Then, you imagine a kinder self. The kinder self then speaks soothingly to your hurting self, treating them gently and kindly. At the end, the two selves hug it out.

Be kind and be gentle—not only to others, but especially to yourself. You’re the only you you’ve got!
Stay safe, everyone.