Be Kind To Yourself On World Kindness Day
The Debrief: In an age where validation comes from others, be nicer to yourself. Confidence in yourself is key.
When I was at school, if you wanted to properly insult someone – to cut deep and burn hard, to abuse them in a way that no c-bomb or ‘Your mum’ ever could, there was only one thing to say. ‘Urghhhh! She actually loves herself.’
Owning up to any self esteem was social suicide. No-one was allowed to feel anything positive about themselves that hadn’t been pre-approved. And if a cool person endorsed a good outfit or a good grade, you weren’t to say ‘Thank you’.
The correct response was, ‘Oh, I actually look like I found this in a skip, then crawled into the skip and rolled in some cold sick that a tramp had left there, and I’m technically medically stupid and the A* was a result of some astonishingly lucky guess work, in fact I probably cheated without knowing because I am just that terrible!’
Some smart girls quickly grew out of this idiocy, but not me! I spent my twenties rejecting all achievements and compliments as determinedly as Gwyneth Paltrow turning down a double Baileys.
‘But you have to say that! You’re my boyfriend!’
‘I only got the job because everyone else who they were interviewing died, probably.’
‘I don’t think I’ve lost weight, but Holy Mary, I must have been enormous the last time you saw me!’
Making myself the punchline of every joke, the strangely fortunate fool was, I thought, a way to seem humble and likeable. But it was slowly destroying me. If you’re banging on about how shit you are 20 times a day, it’s not long until the sentiment permeates your core, like the writing on a suspiciously brown stick of rock.
So, on World Kindness Day, I urge you all to be kind to yourselves! For the love of God. For the love of you. I only started to learn how important this was a few months ago, and I think it saved my life.
I have an anxiety disorder. It’s triggered by a number of chemical and psychological factors, but its main brand value, the slogan its employees wear on their T-shirts at the company picnic, is ‘Daisy is rubbish and worthless’. When it’s especially bad, I panic that people are going to find out about this. I think that telling them will ease the pressure, but it just reinforces the bad belief.
Obviously I don’t want to believe this, so I desperately, hungrily beg everyone for validation. When that comes, I dismiss it – if you like me, you must be rubbish too.
When a difficult time at work meant that these feelings were raging out of control, the need for personal kindness and compassion hit me like a soft, marshmallow-scented truck. I smelled of self loathing, and in every conversation I had and email I read, I assumed I was being shouted at, because I was constantly shouting at myself. I made myself ill.
Eventually I wasn’t capable of doing anything but lying down, crying and watching The American Office. From bed, I self-diagnosed. Why did I talk to myself in a language that I wouldn’t use if I was convicting someone of hate crimes at the Hague? What was the point in spending all my energy on winning people’s approval when I’d instantly deflect it, rendering it as pointless as a Nokia charger or Woolworth’s vouchers?
I set my alarm for the next morning, with the label ‘BE KIND TO YOURSELF!!!’ I thought that if I could begin every day by questioning the mean inner voice, and replacing it with love, I could start getting better. I gave myself a crash course in basic self care, feeding myself at mealtimes, when I was hungry, instead of waiting until all 6pm when emails were answered and ravenously, mindlessly eating biscuits.
I requested reasonable deadlines from editors, instead of breathlessly promising, ‘You’ll have it within the hour!’, which meant I had time to leave my laptop, get some fresh air and wash my hair. If I was too tired to go out, I’d stay in. When I felt a pang of self loathing I’d put my phone on a high shelf, avoid social media and have a bath, a cup of tea or a nap.
Being kind to yourself isn’t easy, but it makes it easier to be kind to other people, too. My negativity was spreading like a toxic oil spill, wrecking my relationships with the people I loved. When I started being nicer to me, I became much nicer to my husband, because I stopped thinking, ‘Why are you with me? What’s wrong with you?’ whenever I looked at him. I wasn’t reading stealth negativity into everyone else’s words, so I wasn’t responding to them like an angry wasp.
Currently, I think we have a collective problem with being kind to ourselves. Every social platform online is based around boosting shares, likes and validation. We can’t quietly think ‘I look hot!’ or ‘I’m funny!’ – we’ve fallen into the habit of asking the internet to confirm or deny our worth.
Instagram star Essena O’Neill recently talked about how low and insecure she felt when she based her life around attracting approval from others. I suspect some of the sexiest selfies aren’t taken by Instagrammers who genuinely feel good about themselves – they’re just wondering how many likes it will take to silence the inner voice that tells them they’re not good enough.
The best way to start this World Kindness Day is by being kind to yourself. You don’t have to ‘schedule some me time’ or light a spenny scented candle, or treat yourself to a cupcake. It’s enough to admire yourself in the mirror, or write down one thing you really like about yourself, or respond to some praise with a single, sincere ‘Thank you’.
It’s very hard to be kind to anyone else unless you know yourself to be worthy of kindness too. Let’s make ‘She actually loves herself’ the best thing you can say about anyone else, not the worst.
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