Bubble baths and facemasks; Self-care, or not?
I procrastinated writing this article until I ironically realised that I was being super unkind to myself by doing so.
Now, you must be thinking: What is she on about? Isn’t not doing work a good thing? Don’t you need a breather?
Yes and no.
With the ongoing realisations of self-love on social media, we have this sugary, lazy image of what self-kindness is supposed to mean. Often these ideals can lead us to do more harm than good, for instance, consuming unhealthy food regularly.
So it is telling yourself that you need to get your work done, and charging forth with motivational and positive statements, right?
No, no and no.
What is self-kindness, then?
Well, to put it simply, it is the sweet spot between criticising yourself into shame and letting go of yourself to the point of carelessness.
Often, we find that we tread on either extreme of this spectrum—either prioritising work to the extent that we’re having multiple shots of coffee and pulling all-nighters, or we go into the deepest levels of self-pity and negligence, continuously procrastinating and leaving all work for tomorrow. Those who assume that these are methods of self-care, can be mistaken.
In a world where we often find our worth attached to our productivity, it can be dreadfully hard not to be critical of oneself. We all want to be better and do better, but there comes a point where our strive for excellence, turns to striving for perfection, eventually leading to burnouts.
In situations like these, we need to step back and acknowledge how far we’ve come and go a little easy on ourselves. Here, self-kindness may be defined as being accepting and understanding towards yourself in times of hardship, rather than being harshly self-critical.
Contrarily, when our ideals of self-love become narcissistic and start to make us slack, we must realign our perspective to self-kindness as Dr Neff’s definition which illustrates self-kindness as being able to face difficult feelings when we make mistakes, so we can assess ourselves and improve for the better.
For instance, when we catch ourselves binge-watching Netflix, we could instead watch an episode and keep the next one as a treat once we finish working. Balancing out work with intervals for rest and leisure will ensure productivity, and you’ll remain recharged throughout.
A little pampering is comforting occasionally but you can love yourself without exhausting your wallet on bath bombs.
Regardless, what is and has always remained constant is doing what is best for you. That may look like different things on different days; sometimes when your fingers are itching to stay up past 2 am and complete the article you were working on, you must rest. Other days when your eyelids are too heavy to open-up for a morning run, you must wake up.
You must do what’s best for you in the long run, but that doesn’t necessarily mean overworking. Don’t bite more than you can chew.
We know what you’re thinking; I hear you, but let’s be real. I have so much work, and the world is competitive. I need to do my best, and if I don’t, I’ll lose my job. I won’t have any food, clothes or shelter and I’ll die.
Okay, slow down, buddy, you’re absolutely right! Let’s be real with ourselves. That is exactly what self-compassion is, knowledge and understanding of oneself.
Fun fact: Research proves that people with higher self-compassion are found to be more successful over a period of time, less lazy and greatly motivated. They deal with mistakes as a learning experience rather than being harshly critical.
Here’s a gentle reminder – self-compassion isn’t just good for your mental health. It drastically improves your physical health, your work life and relationships, in the following ways:
- Lower stress levels (We all could use some of this)
- Healthy eating and living behaviours
- Freedom from disability
- Better emotional regulation
- Emotional resilience
- Less narcissism
- Improved focus
- Better empathy
- Good immunity
How do we treat ourselves kindly without crossing a line? Here are a few tips to help.
Avoid classifying emotions as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or ‘positive’ and ‘negative.’
Classifying and scrutinising yourself can result in internal conflict and judgment against yourself. Instead, drop the thought, and try replacing the voice of judgment with questions like, ‘what is this teaching me?’ or ‘what does this sadness represent?’
Learn to say ‘NO.’
Although your contribution is valuable, the world will not come crashing down if you say no to someone or let up on an opportunity. You are important; you come first.
Say no to yourself
As tempting as it might be to have another cupcake or watch just another episode; you have to take a step back and reassess what is most important for ‘you’ as ‘a person’ and not ‘you’ as ‘your desires’. All things are good in balance, but once that balance has been disturbed, it crosses over to being unkind to yourself.
Take a break
Ease off from work, social media, and your extracurriculars to take some time out for yourself. Reflect and spend time with yourself. Going for a walk, or even just relaxing with a cup of your preferred drink and a good book helps. You are more interesting than you think.
Please. Get. Enough. Sleep.
We’re university students, some with internships. That itself defines how busy we can get. Although, if you don’t sleep enough, you are harming yourself. Setting daily schedules and making to-do lists ensures that you have plenty of time to rest as well as complete all your work.
Let yourself fail
Failing at one thing does not make you a failure. The first step to being good at something is being terrible at it.
Whether it is experiencing negative emotions or just wanting to stay in bed 30 minutes into your class, getting curious about why you feel a particular way will help you understand yourself. This may differ from person to person, for instance: frustration might mean ‘not being heard’ for one person but could also mean ‘I’m not growing in my grades’ for another. Assessing where our thoughts stem from allows us to deal with them effectively.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t be kind to yourself sometimes
It’s okay. We all slip up. What matters is that we are trying. At the end of the day, being kind to yourself entails recognising that you are human.
Treat yourself as you would treat a close friend
Some days that might mean holding yourself together while you make a mistake. On others, it may mean pulling yourself out of bed to get your work done. Be there for yourself.
Practice accepting self-talk
Give yourself the time and space to experience emotions before you can let them go. Replace statements such as, ‘I’m, a terrible person for feeling jealous/envious etc.’ with statements like ‘it’s okay to feel that way, maybe I can learn something from that person.’
Reach out to others
Reaching out to someone who is here to listen and understand you can help you feel supported and look at yourself objectively to choose a course of action.
Putting your thoughts down on paper helps you delve deeper, and put into perspective your goals, ideas and beliefs. Writing down affirmations and keeping in check facilitates healthy release of emotions.
Lastly, Self-kindness is extended to you, as a whole. You can’t hurt one part of your body trying to be ‘kind’ to another part. However pleasing six hours of Netflix or ten cans of coke seem; this will harm you even if it feels like self-love.
Yes, it may be hard sometimes, it may even take a long time. However, you would rather go at a comfortable pace than burdening yourself to numbness.
If you require professional help or someone to reach out to, Ms Aditi Bhatia, Clinical psychologist is an accessible contact as she runs the university wellness group.
Here’s the emergency hotline if you’re ever feeling low – HOPE (800-4673)
Remember, vulnerability is strength. Be kind to yourself today!
Love this so much. The line between neglectful and self care is so thin sometimes, and reminders like this article put everything into perspective. ❤ Thank you.
What a fresh perspective and take on life in general. All the more relevant because of the clarity of thought . It makes me want to think of myself in a way I never thought before.
Wonderful article! Very needed!