Stop Being So Mean to Yourself

            You know those times in life when you’re going about your day, living life happily, and you get a phone call that changes your entire mood? Now, I’m not talking about the Earth shattering types of phone calls, but the ones that just remind you of a past due bill or an unpleasant meeting you need to attend, or something of that nature? Well, I had one of those phone calls the other day. My dear friend Sallie Mae made that dreaded call and afterwards I began doing a downward spiral into self-hate. That spiral is familiar territory for me, and one that I have worked for years to avoid and find productive outlets for. Thankfully, with age and experience I am more attuned to my own habits, triggers, and potential pitfalls. This knowledge has allowed me to reduce the amount of time I spend being angry or mad at myself, and change my train of thinking to be more productive.

            Now that I am older, I wish someone had told me that being mean to myself is not only self-abuse, it’s counterproductive.  For years, I have struggled with my weight and no amount of calling myself names, has helped me to lose weight, just as no amount of calling myself a failure the other day was helping me make money to repay Sallie Mae. In fact, my little pity party was distracting me from work I had to do to actually earn an income. After a few moments of my own self-pity, I used a few strategies that helped me get back on track, so I could refocus my energy on what it is I needed to get done that day, and back on the road to earning an income, so I could repay my loan.

Here are a few strategies that help me stop being mean to myself:

  1. Yell STOP! OK no, I don’t say this out loud, but I do say it in my head at a high level. When I start saying things like, “I’m a failure” or I start lamenting on my “shoulda, woulda, couldas” a firm STOP! Often helps the thoughts to scatter. It’s sort of like a mind trick. The thoughts seem to be on repeat, where they just keep going and going, and yelling something simple like stop, helps to break up the momentum, and send those thoughts on their merry way.
  2. Tell yourself something you either did well or appreciate about yourself. For example, when I get down about owing student loans, I tell myself how much I paid last month, or the credit card bill I recently paid off. Sometimes, it can seem overwhelming when we are only thinking about how much we still have to pay, or how much weight we still need to lose, or any other task that seems so far away. However, when we are able to think back and look at how far we have come, it helps the burden seem a little lighter.
  3. Make a plan. Big overwhelming tasks, goals, or challenges are discouraging when we look at the entirety of what needs to get done. If we are able to break these down into smaller, more attainable objectives, we tend to feel less paralyzed. When we are constantly berating ourselves, we end up paralyzing ourselves. Making a plan, no matter how small the individual goals are, is the first step in the chipping away process.
  4. Do something nice for yourself. I will go into more detail about where I first learned this phrase and who taught it to me, in a later post. For now, I will say that we all deserve to put ourselves on our own ‘to do’ lists and do something nice for ourselves, on a daily basis. This can be something small and minute or all the way up to treating yourself to a once in a lifetime vacation. Simple, nice things you can do for yourself include: painting your nails, taking yourself out do dinner or a movie, putting a small amount of money in savings to save up for a vacation, wearing a cute outfit, or even taking a nap when you’re run down. These things are small, but they remind us to treat ourselves with the love and respect we deserve.

These are just some of the things I have used over the years that have helped me, when I really want to get down on myself. While, at times, it is a challenge to quit being so mean to myself, I find having some quick “go-tos” help me to get out of my negative mindset, and help me to refocus on what it is I need to do, and who I need to take care of most—myself.

With all that said, have you ever berated yourself inwardly? What do you do to stop being so mean to yourself?

 

Why is Self-Care Important

About eight months ago, I injured my back while working out. I was working in the weight room at my gym, and while doing the back extensions, I moved too quickly and immediately my back felt odd, not painful, but definitely something was wrong. When I got up and found I could hardly bend over I decided cut my workout short and go home. An hour or so later, the pain kicked in and my lower back hurt for days after that. I decided to take some time off to rest and heal. About a week later I returned to the gym, and while my back felt better, it still hurt a little bit. Nevertheless, I continued on my heavy weight lifting routine, because I did not want to lose the progress I made over the previous months. A few weeks later, with my back still hurting, I went to visit my brother and his family. I have two young nieces, whom I babysat while my brother and his wife went to work during the day. The youngest wasn’t walking at the time, so I had to carry her a lot. For the week I was there, by the end of each day my back was in major pain. The day after I returned home from visiting my brother, I woke to discover I caught my youngest niece’s cold. I was in bed for nearly a week, as this turned out to be a particularly bad cold. I didn’t even think of working out. I only got out of bed to eat and use the bathroom.

After a week, I felt better and found myself moving around more and suddenly I realized, my back wasn’t hurting anymore. My body had gotten the rest it needed. I realized this had not been the first time this has happened either. The past few years have been challenging, and I have found myself having more and more colds than before. I have come to realize this is a sign from my body that I need to take a break or a rest. The old saying is true “the body takes what it needs.” Times when I have found myself up until 1 o’clock in the morning working, have all come at the expense of my health. We are not machines, and neither are our bodies. Self-care allows us to take time for ourselves to tend to our physical, mental, and spiritual health.

If we are in bed from a cold or illness because we got rundown, and weren’t taking care of ourselves, then we cannot be there for others. As women of color, it is practically ingrained into us, that we need to care for others. We tend to be the sole or main source of physical, emotional, and often times, financial care for our children, parents when they get older, family members and even our friends. We care for those at work, whether they be customers, colleagues, or clients. But, who takes care of us?

I have watched many women in my life take care of others, but neglect themselves. I have seen how the stress of self-neglect wears on the body and results in high blood pressure, anger and resentment, because our very spirits have been malnourished. Self-care is an essential part of everyday life, just as breathing and eating. How we take care of ourselves, is a testament to how we let others treat us. If we are unwilling to put aside time for ourselves for self-care, it goes to reason that others are unwilling to put in that kind of effort on our behalf.

Self-care manifests itself in a number of ways, from how and what we eat and physical activity, to the types of boundaries we set for ourselves in relationships. Self-care plays a role in every aspect of our lives, and only we can define it for ourselves. Self-care is an act of rebellion because it forces us to ask tough questions and make hard decisions in the name of our own best interests. It is not always easy, but once we begin to taking care of ourselves in little ways, it becomes easier to manage self-care in bigger ways. Self-care is not a choice, it is our duty, our covenant with ourselves, and if we fail or put off self-care, we are the ones who end up paying the consequences.

Why is self-care important to you? What are some ways in which to practice self-care? Leave a comment below.