After finishing University I found myself in a position, where I had so many choices to make, but no idea of what I wanted to do. In high school I had always envisioned that it would be easy to fall into a career, and that I would find myself following my dreams. However, it turns out that not all paths are that straightforward. I think many people from my generation would agree that there are almost too many career options to choose from. This is not a bad thing and we shouldn’t complain, but it can be truly overwhelming and it made me feel quite lost. It also made me question a lot of my decisions. For a while I was quite harsh to myself, critically evaluating all the steps I had taken.
It took me a while to realise that sometimes there is space for us to move away from being critical and be kind instead. As Oscar Wilde put it:
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”.
It is easy to love yourself on good days, when your self-esteem is high, but it can be difficult when you are at a low point. When I was feeling down because I felt like I wasn’t achieving what I should be, I really struggled to love myself. Then I read that at times all it means is to treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend. Imagine he or she came to you, feeling low, and questioning what they were doing. Surely, you wouldn’t add to their discomfort by pointing out everything that they had possibly done wrong? Instead you would be compassionate, and treat them with kindness and care. You would be self-compassionate. It took me a minute to think this through, but I realised how much nicer and forgiving I was to my friends than to myself. I decided to change this, and although it can be difficult at times, it has really made a difference to how I feel.
There are three main components to self-compassion:
If you are under the stress of caring for someone, being kind to yourself is particularly important. Life is difficult enough without you being harsh to yourself. Ask yourself: What do I need? How do I care for myself already? What would I say to a good friend in a situation like this, and how would I say it? Some of the ways you can take care of yourself include taking time to exercise, be with friends, read or listen to music. Those are examples of things that make me feel better- what are some of the things that you enjoy doing? Remember that in the end the only way you can look after the person you care for, is if you take care of your own well-being.