Why we should be kinder to ourselves when life is hard
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
Sometimes, life gets you down. It happens to the best of us.
Things are fine, then something happens, followed by something else, and BOOM! That deep, pervasive feeling of not being able to get ahead becomes a constant presence in your life. Then, suddenly, it feels like your problems wait until you are asleep, then breed like rabbits, creating even more problems.
All of a sudden, things that used to be easy feel hard.
You become forgetful. Not just about little things, but big things too, like what level of the parking building you left your car.
Your emotions are all over the place. Things that you used to be chill about make your eyes leak.
You eat all of the cake, even when you’re full a third of the way through and it’s a bit stale.
You finish all of the wine, even though you have a big presentation to give at 9 am the next day. Your ability to make rational decisions is out the window.
You get out your self-flagellation stick and do your worst, saying things to yourself that you would never say to other people.
But – times like this, we must be kind to ourselves. We must. Here’s why:
1. Willpower is finite
We can’t do everything. Willpower is a finite resource.
Sometimes, all we can do is focus our efforts on floating on our back and not sinking.
There is no use in trying to swim like Michael Phelps when, due to your circumstances, the mere act of floating is deserving of a gold medal.
2. The pain of heartbreak and rejection is real.
Some MRI scans were done of people who were shown photographs of people who had broken their hearts. The same people later had something painful done to their arms and underwent the scans again. The brain activity looked the same.
The wise trolls in Frozen said it better than me: “People make bad choices when they’re mad or sad or stressed.”
3. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is also real
This model is of a triangle that says that if your basic needs aren’t met, everything else is harder. These basic needs include love, belonging and stability. Things are harder when you’re down. It’s time to give yourself a break about it.
4. Stress does things to our bodies and brains
Bad things. The wise trolls in Frozen said it better than me: “People make bad choices when they’re mad or sad or stressed.” This is all true. Stress exacerbates our ability to think rationally and to make good choices. It makes us sick. When we are stressed, the first step is to recognise that, and to be kinder to ourselves. Self care is of paramount importance, and beating yourself up for feeling like a moody emotional wreck is unhelpful. More than unhelpful. It’s counter-productive.
5. Healing doesn’t happen in a direct line
We don’t heal in a straight line. Sometimes the worst days are the ones that come the day after you thought everything was going well again. This is OK. We have not failed. We’ll get there in the end. It’s usually just a journey that takes a little bit longer than we expect it to. This is normal.
We’ll get there in the end. It’s usually just a journey that takes a little bit longer than we expect it to.
I’m not saying that we should wallow for longer than is healthy or that substance abuse is OK. I’m not making excuses for people who do shitty things.
All I am saying is this: when things are hard, we need to treat ourselves with more empathy. There are reasons that our feelings are all over the place.
And let’s be kind to ourselves when this happens.
Post first appeared here