Written by Kate Diller.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.
Showing yourself kindness, while empowering, is shockingly difficult. You’d think it would be easy, we’re kind to others every day. So why is it that we can’t apply that to ourselves? I think about this almost every day. It’s something I really struggle with, even as I preach to my friends about loving themselves and treating themselves kindly. I’ve tried to fix it in a myriad of ways, through gratitude journals, a whiteboard wall of nice things, even apps or daily quotes. It never really sinks in, it doesn’t feel genuine. If this struggle is familiar, I wrote this piece for you. The one thing I’ve found in my self-antagonizing cycle is that self-love is a lot easier if you’ve already heard those things from someone else. External validation is a powerful thing, at least for me. I hope reading this helps you, makes you feels seen, or even helps you learn to show yourself kindness.
The challenges you face are real and worth addressing. When we reduce our problems, or let others reduce them, we make them a little worse. We give in, choose to ignore them, let them fester. I spent almost five years pushing my issues aside, believing because things were not as bad as they could be, that nothing was wrong. Even now, I catch myself comparing the challenges I face to those of my friends, which only validates the toxic ideas my anxiety plants in my head. Sometimes the denial is easier, but it’s not what’s healthier. Comparing yourself to others doesn’t change the fact that you’re struggling. Just because someone else “has it worse” doesn’t mean that the things you struggle with shouldn’t be dealt with. Reducing your struggles doesn’t make them go away. It’s okay to acknowledge them and to see someone if you need to. Problems aren’t solved by pretending they’re not there.
You are allowed to take care of yourself. It’s okay to take a day to yourself. You are allowed to miss one obligation to take care of yourself, to help you keep it together for everything else. You are allowed to make yourself a priority. I struggle to say no because I worry that it will reflect poorly on me, or make someone hate me, or ruin something, even in the most minor of situations. None of that is true, for me and for you. We get to say no sometimes, to do things for ourselves. We get to do things we want or need to do. Doing those things is allowed, they are acts of self-care.
You are not worth less because of your struggles or your mental illnesses. We’ve fallen into this pattern of treating anyone with a mental illness or even just people who are struggling as though they’re damaged goods, lost causes. When you’re on the receiving end of that animosity, it can be really easy to turn on yourself. I give in to that idea a lot, even going so far as to let myself believe I should just accept that the sadness and anxiety can’t be fixed, that it’s not worth talking about. What gets to me, though, are the little things, not the hate, but the fear or the discomfort. I am a burden to those around me, or at least, that’s the way that I feel. Once you start that kind of thinking, it can be hard to stop. I have to remind myself that I am a person, that I’m allowed to be not okay, and that the things I struggle with don’t make me less of a person. I think you’re a person, just like me, and just like everyone else, and if you’re not okay, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re a person.
You are loved. This is one I struggle with almost daily. Loving myself and accepting that my friends and family actually love me seems an insurmountable task. I don’t know that there’s a clear-cut answer or solution, but I do know that it helps me to hear the words. If you need to know someone loves you, I’m here. You are loved. Even if you feel like you’re not or if you feel like you don’t deserve it. No matter how your day has gone or if you’ve made a mistake, messed up an exam, got a bad grade. Even if your problems are more massive than these. Even if something within you tells you otherwise. You are loved.
I hope that no matter what’s going on in your life, this helps you or helps you help someone else. Let me say the words again, once more, so you really feel them. Your struggles are valid. You deserve to have time to yourself. You get to say no. No mental illness reduces your worth. You are loved. Hear these words, and share them too.