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Be Kind to yourself Part 1: “Why should I?”

Self-love and kindness can feel like a meaningless platitude when you’re facing real problems - but it actually has a practical purpose, too.


We’ve all heard it. “You’ve got to be nicer to yourself”, “prioritise self care”, “love yourself”. Sure it’s nice in theory, but what’s the point? It can feel like people don’t know how to help so are just throwing out some nice-sounding nonsense, or actively making a bad suggestion- after all, how will you get anything done if you’re not pushing yourself or punishing yourself for your mistakes? Well, spoiler for the rest of this post, but being kind to yourself has a point: it cuts down on the noise in your head, makes it easier to complete tasks, and protects you from breaking down during future crises.


 

In This Article:

 

A photo of a woman from behind, looking upwards while gesturing with both palms open, seeming to ask "why?"

“Being Nice to Myself Won’t Solve My Problems.”


Sure, that’s true. But neither will being mean to yourself. A cute coffee break might not get your emails written, but sitting at your computer telling yourself that it’s supposed to be easy and you’re failing at life won’t get them done either. Despite what adults taught us, telling someone that they’re not trying hard enough never motivated anyone to get it done.

But what being mean to yourself (I’m calling this “self hatred” from here for simplicity) does do is start filling your head with negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts are great at reproducing, too, so where you started with “I’m shit at this”, ten minutes later you’ve got “I’m shit at that other thing, and last week I failed at something, god I’m just bad at everything, is this what my life is going to be like forever? Will I never achieve anything? Oh my GOD it’s been ten minutes and I STILL haven’t done anything!” Ad infinitum.


And those thoughts have fun sensations to go with them:

  • Feeling heavy

  • Sweaty palms, pits, and various bits

  • Racing heart

  • Tightness in your chest

  • Headaches

  • jitters

  • … all the fun stress/anxiety/depression symptoms you feel when things get overwhelming.


Sometimes the panic gets so intense that we do the thing, because our body is in such a fight/flight response we have to do something. But usually? We get paralysed and do nothing but sit in our self hatred, or get up and leave the task and can’t even look at it without panicking.

If that wasn’t enough, it also leaves you exhausted. Your brain and body are in crisis mode with no way to solve it and all your energy is pumping through your body, using all your energy. So there’s nothing left to do the task anyway.


What does self-hatred have an impact on?


Thoughts and Feelings

Makes sense, since it is thoughts and feelings, but it impacts all your thoughts. “I need to buy groceries” becomes “I forgot to buy groceries like an IDIOT and it’ll take me all day because I’m so slow and then I won't do anything else because I’m so lazy…” and becomes a whole terrible ordeal. It makes just thinking about doing something harder because it’s not just the task, it’s all the negative thoughts and feelings coming along for the ride.


Energy and Rest

Whether you like it or not, resting is essential for your brain to work properly. Sleep is best, closing your eyes is great, and just doing nothing for a bit is good too. But it’s not “rest” if your body is still but your mind is racing. Have you ever done nothing but worry for an hour and then wonder why you’re tired? Lying in bed replaying That One Time I Messed Up over and over isn’t rest. It’s exhausting. So being kind to yourself is necessary for your “off” time to actually recharge you, instead of being time where you have nothing to distract yourself from your self hatred.


Actually Enjoying Things

I’ll keep saying this until it sticks: hating yourself doesn’t have any positive outcomes, and it poisons things that would otherwise have positive outcomes. So if you love drawing, you’re going to love it less if you spend it thinking about the ways you could be a better artist, or about the tasks you aren’t completing while you’re drawing, or about how much you suck. Suddenly art stops being fun and becomes stressful. And then you stop, and you don’t replace it with a new fun activity, because you stopped out of sadness or upset- and boom, one less thing in your life that brings you happiness. And one new thing for you to beat yourself up over.


A photo of a toddler in a dark blue coat and white woolen hat, hugging a large, fluffy husky who is sitting and looking at the camera.

So how does kindness get anything done?


Turns out hating and berating yourself actually has a bunch of negative consequences. Now what? The task is still there. Well here’s where kindness comes in. How do you feel when you’re getting shit done?


  • Relaxed

  • Motivated

  • Excited/enthusiastic

  • Having fun

  • Capable


These are the feelings that make it easier to start something, to continue it when it gets hard, and to believe it can get finished. It might not be all of them but it’s usually at least one.


All those feelings have something in common: they’re hard to feel when someone is telling you how worthless you are. 


That’s where self-kindness comes in. If being kind doesn’t feel worth it on its own, then consider it the electricity that charges the parts of you that gets stuff done. You don’t have to be kind to yourself because you deserve kindness (which you do), but because it builds up the feelings that make action possible. How do we do that? Well, that's part 2 (coming soon!).

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