Are you your own worst critic? Join the club. I know I am, and so are most of my nearest and dearest friends. So here’s the best advice that I’ve been given lately .. and I’m passing it along to just as many others. BE GOOD TO YOURSELF.
Riddle me this. Why are we (ok me and many of those I know) so damn hard on ourselves? Several of my friends are going through a rough time lately – and when the current job climate and political scariness brewing around the world are layered on – it’s a lot to handle. Uncertainty, coupled with anxiety, and then smeared with a thick coating of fear has made the world a pretty scary place. Maybe that’s why our first instinct is to beat up the person we know the best – ourselves. The past six months have been loaded with limit-testing anxiety for me – lots of change leading to new challenges and self-reflection. But instead of cutting myself some slack, I often end up obsessing over every decision and blaming myself for every misstep along the way. Enough! I’ve lost count of the number of times my close friends have told me to stop beating myself up. I’m determined to give myself a break with these reminders:
Treat yourself royally. Everybody has bad days. Instead of replaying the events over and over (and over and over) all night long, think about what you were most grateful for that day. Several of my friends swear by their Five Minute Journal. I keep repeating my moment – and it can be as small as gratitude for my morning coffee (a really bad day) – as I fall asleep. And writing a blog post like this helps too.
Forgive yourself. So you screwed something up. So what. Acknowledge it. Think about it. And then don’t do it again. Move on. Don’t keep whipping yourself over the same issue. “I’ll never forgive myself for what I let happen in my relationship,” a friend whispered to me once as she wept over its demise. What’s done is done – you can’t change the past. Accept it, LEARN from it, and move on. Be gentle with yourself. We all make mistakes – some bigger than others – so don’t make it worse by hating on yourself.
Get over yourself. I’m not Mother Nature – surprise! I’ve gotten in the bad habit of stressing over the things that I can’t control – like the weather. I’ll look at my weather app and start to freak out, five days in advance, about the weather forecast. Granted, I’ve spent the winter in Vancouver where the city has suffered its worst snow in more than 30 years. And many people, including me (who has spent 20 years trudging problem-free through Toronto weather), got all silly hysterical about every storm. I don’t normally fret about things I have no power over but lately, it’s becoming an issue. I’m learning to view anxiety like that with a shrug. The old “don’t sweat the small stuff” saying really does make sense. I tell myself that in a day or two, none of this will matter. Get over it.
Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. I’m one of those people that tends to close out others when I’m feeling blue. It’s that stiff-upper-lip British part of my upbringing. I always figured that nobody wanted to hear about my problems, and I guess I didn’t want to admit that I had any. Instead of holding everything inside where it can grow to monumental proportions, share your vulnerabilities. I was surprised (go figure) by how much closer I felt to my loved ones. In tough times, there are few things more comforting than being told “you’re not alone”. Say it often and mean it.
Do something that makes you feel good. When I find that I’m being particularly hard on myself, I look for small things that make me feel peaceful. I got out of the habit of reading. Instead of digging into a new novel, I had taken up speed reading magazines on my iPad. My coveted reading time in bed now felt like work, and the glowing screen made me anxious. Now, I’ve edited the number of magazines that I automatically download and have started reading paper books again (yup, going back old school). I love the feel of the paper and the act of turning the page versus racing through text by a computer screen. I also love the mindfulness of a yoga class and, come spring, I’m going to start working out and walking regularly again.
Move on. Get up, dust yourself off, and move forward. It’s easy to keep beating yourself up if you continue to flail around in the same spot. Consider your options, sleep on them (hopefully no 2am self-counselling sessions!) and then take action. Procrastinating or hoping that something will miraculously change won’t help your situation.
Fill your mind with gratitude. I know – how Oprah of me. Cue the eye rolls. But I am often inspired by Instagram and quotes like this one that I stumbled across. Don’t let your negative thoughts take over. If you keep playing that punishing tape over and over in your head, it will become your reality. So be good to yourself – no one else has that power over your mind.