Four Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself Today
by Rebekah Bell
You likely don’t need us to tell you that it’s easy to fall into the trap of curating the “perfect life” to impress other people. You also likely know that in our attempt to make our real lives seem as fabulous as they do on Instagram, it’s easy to measure all of the ways we think we’ve missed the mark instead of celebrating the best parts of ourselves. What’s not so obvious, though, is how exactly to go about kicking that habit to the curb.
The good news? There are plenty of easy ways to avoid falling into this trap. First, it’s vital to focus on what we truly need and to learn to be gentle with ourselves. By practicing kindness toward ourselves in moments both big and small, we can learn to foster a more positive outlook on life. So with that in mind, here are four ways you can break the cycle of negative self-talk and comparison, and treat yourself with serious kindness on a daily basis.
1. Create a Self-Care Checklist
Far from being a way to justify spending a night binge-watching Netflix with a facemask on, self-care is how we ensure that we feel our best physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. So write down a checklist of ways you want to improve in each of these four areas. A few ideas to get you started include setting up a new exercise routine to improve your physical well-being, sign up for yoga or guided meditation to deepen your spiritual sensitivity, read a thought-provoking book to expand your mental horizons or book a counseling session to help you process a certain aspect of your life. And don’t sweat it if these things feel overwhelming. Instead, try to find a friend to embark on the self-care journey with you — after all, it’s much more fun to practice yoga or read at a coffee shop with a girlfriend by your side.
2. Banish Negative Talk
If your friend was having a bad day, would you tell her that she was a complete and utter failure? Of course not!
So why do we often treat ourselves in a way we would never treat our closest friends? Human nature may be to blame: it’s natural to serve as our own harshest critics, beating ourselves up over and over again for our perceived faults.
But this kind of thinking can have an unhealthy impact on our bodies. According to Mayo Clinic, thinking negatively about ourselves can actually lead to increased stress and health problems. On the flip side, positive thinking has been linked to a longer life span, lower rates of depression and distress and better psychological and physical well-being. (TLDR: Banishing negative-self talk can make you feel better in more ways than one.)
Instead of being a bully, try to think of yourself as you would a good friend: Learn to have grace and empathy with your shortcomings rather than demanding perfection. When you find yourself having a negative reaction, train yourself to replace it with a positive affirmation until it becomes second nature.
3. Treat Yourself Responsibly
When you’ve had a bad day, it’s tempting to drown our sorrows in wine, chocolate, online shopping and takeout Thai food (and we’re right there with you, too). But while this short-term spending can momentarily boost our spirits, it won’t necessarily help us feel better in the long run. Sometimes self-care can entail spending money (on a facial, new outfit and, yes, chocolate), but other times it might consist of skipping something on your to-do list to journal, take a walk or talk to a close friend.
Responsible self-care means that we don’t use money as a way to try to artificially boost our spirits; rather, we think consciously about what we need to make ourselves feel good on a deep, lasting level and then do that. Take it from singer/self-empowerment guru Lizzo:
“Self-care is more than just going to the spa, getting your nails done or drinking a mimosa ‘cause it’s Sunday.’ It is so much deeper than what commercialization is trying to turn it into. Self-care is really rooted in self-preservation…we have to start being more honest with what we need, and what we deserve, and start serving that to ourselves.”
Ordering takeout food or going shopping can definitely be a part of your self-care routine (and we’ll get to how to shop positively in a minute), but next time the itch to grab your credit card strikes, take a minute or two to examine what’s behind that sudden urge to spend.
4. Shop Consciously
If you decide to buy a new outfit as part of your self-care routine, try to spread the kindness around by shopping from brands that support causes you care about and only picking up pieces that you know will be heavy-hitters in your wardrobe. One way you can do this is to consume consciously by choosing items designed to last rather than participating in fast fashion. You could even consider investing in a capsule wardrobe — a collection of a few essential pieces such as skirts, pants and shirts that can be paired with seasonal options all thoughtfully selected to make you feel like the best version of yourself— to reduce the number of outfits you need to purchase.
And remember: Fashion should be used as a way to help you celebrate and accentuate yourself rather than to impress other people or conform to society’s expectations who you should be. Because letting you be you is the kindest thing you can do.
Being kind is close to our hearts here at Common Assembly, and we’re dedicated to injecting it into the fashion industry in every way possible (think responsible labor practices, a no-photoshop policy and much more). You can learn more about our kindness initiatives, here.
Rebekah Bell is a writer who lives in Los Angeles.