Photo by Michael Felton
A few years back, a colleague told me I was a “real task-master” to myself because I told her about how if I am not doing something "productive" I monitor how much time I am spending on it. She looked at me and asked me if I would want a supervisor to do that to me. I immediately thought no. When I got home, I thought about what she said a little deeper. I don’t like to be micromanaged on the job and have someone look over my shoulder asking what I’m doing. Why am I doing that to myself without a second thought? The answer to that I realized, much later is that I never really learned how to be gentle with myself. I could be gentle with my students and explain something 20 times, if necessary, but I couldn’t be gentle with myself for spending 20 minutes watching Youtube videos I like. Then, I thought: why do other people deserve my patience and compassion but I, myself, don’t? Of course, I realized right away that I do deserve patience and compassion from myself but it didn’t show up in my actions towards myself. I needed to practice self-love. The key word there: practice. You may not get this right the first time. You may not get it right the first 100 times. But you will get what you need. I did.
Here are 5 steps to self-love:
1. Honor yourself.
Accept where you are and what you want to do on any given day. If you are tired and don’t want to do something, don’t judge yourself for it. If you would rather play than do something "productive," don’t condemn yourself. I’m not saying don’t go to work for 10 days and get yourself fired. I’m just saying not to be hard on yourself for what you want to do and don’t want to do in any given moment.
2. Give yourself what you need.
If you need sleep, sleep. If you want to take a break from something, do it. If you know there is something you need, let yourself have it. You don’t always have to “suck it up.” Respect your own needs just as you would respect anyone else’s.
Take time to sit, and give your mind a break. Take anywhere from 2 minutes to a half and hour. Some people do it for longer. I have an uncle who is as old school as they come. He is the Indian John Wayne, and he meditates. He once said, "I take 2 minutes. I don’t think about nothin!’" If he can take time out for that, anyone can.
4. Be mindful of your self-talk.
Pay attention to your thoughts, especially if you are working on something. How kind are you to yourself if you make a mistake? I’ve called myself an idiot in my head countless times. When you look in the mirror when you get dressed, is the first thing you think of a criticism? I’ve caught myself doing that and realized that I would never say to another person the things I think about myself. The kindness you reserve for others you deserve yourself.
5. Compliment yourself at least once a day.
Give yourself praise when you do well. Maybe when you look in the mirror find something you like about yourself and say it. Lately, I have been complimenting my body instead of immediately focusing on flaws. Most days the first thing I think of is what I like. That didn’t always happen. Now, I feel so much better first thing in the morning.
Until next time...look behind and beyond the veil…
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer