WELLNESS WATCH SELF-LOVE AND STAYING WELL
o, there’s this thing that I think we all need a little more of – you’ve probably heard of it before? It’s called self-love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about us living special snowflake lives in an igloo where nobody can hurt us or becoming hippies who live in the forest far away from society… I am talking about a level of self-appreciation that is fundamental to being a functioning, happy and healthy human being. Loving yourself is a difficult thing to master: I think on the whole, we’re pretty good at showing love to others – to family, to friends, to our boyfriends, girlfriends - in platonic or romantic contexts. But when was the last time we stopped to deliberately show love to ourselves? This takes many forms, and it can be as simple as examining the self-talk we are using when we think, to getting enough sleep, having enough down time to unwind and destress, masturbating if you’re into that, reading a good book or watching your favourite movie, having a little dance or even busting out a bit of karaoke. Some of us are really good at this whole self-love thing, and others can struggle with it. In this world of social media, of comparisons and competition, especially in the context of university – it can be really hard to embrace where we’re at right now and say hey, I should be proud of what I’ve achieved so far. Essentially, I think we need to give ourselves a break sometimes! I have noticed that in general, we are so much harder on ourselves than we are on other people. Have you ever stopped to listen to the way you talk to yourself? How many of us have ever had thoughts like:
What’s the point of this? I’m just going to mess it up anyway. That exam result wasn’t good enough; why am I so dumb? No wonder he didn’t want to talk to me, I’m not that interesting. A clichéd, albeit useful thought experiment is to picture yourself as a friend, and imagine yourself telling them the things you say to yourself. Pretty harsh, right? Just to reiterate, I’m not suggesting that we stop self-analysing, because I think that is really valuable and allows us to grow as people. However, I am suggesting that we make ourselves aware of, and try to change the negative and self-deprecating thoughts when they arise in our own minds to protect our wellbeing as best we can. Adopting a growth mind-set, as opposed to a mind-set that is quick to condemn or equate a loss to complete and absolute failure, is really important for all of us. A “growth mind-set” looks like changing the language that we use when we talk to ourselves from a closed success/failure, black or white outcome, to an open ended, room-for-improvement type way of thinking.
A dangerous habit to get into when thoughts like the examples above crop up is to take them as absolute truth, and to not challenge them at all. If we consistently believe that we’re not that interesting, that we’re dumb, or we believe that we always mess things up, of course that is going to affect our self-confidence, and the way that we interact with people on a day to day basis. I think of times I where I was mentally unwell, and the most basic interactions with people – e.g. greeting an acquaintance when you see them in public – felt overwhelming, because in my head was an endless stream of: what are you doing with your face, why are you walking like that, you’re terrible at this, don’t bother them, they’re not interested in what you have to say, it’s not important enough… extremely self-critical, right? And more than that: very self-conscious and self-focused. If you’ve struggled with mental illness personally, you will probably be able to relate to aspects of this example. This is why it is so important that our self-talk is gentle, self-respectful, and always coming from a positive place. Easier said than done, I know. But something that’s kind of freeing to recognise, and I think is an epiphany a lot of us have at some point in our high school years, is that no one is thinking about you nearly as much as you are. We are easily our own worst critic, so maybe we should start giving ourselves better reviews? That’s not to say we should all become super egotistical and talk about how wonderful we are – just that we deserve to show ourselves respect, as much as we should expect to give and receive respect from others. Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that mental health issues are solvable just like that – talking from personal experience, I know that if you are struggling, it is important to seek help from professionals and not bottle feelings up and try to deal with them on your own.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO BE MORE SELF-LOVING - MAKE TIME FOR THE THINGS YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT AND LOVE TO DO - LEARN TO RECOGNISE WHEN YOU’RE TAKING ON TOO MUCH, AND SAY TO NO WHEN YOU NEED TO WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY ABOUT IT - RECOGNISE WHEN YOU’RE NOT OKAY, AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH SOMEONE YOU TRUST
By Abby Robertson