Tuesday, October 27th, 2020...12:39 pm

Being kind to yourself (even when you don’t want to be)

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By: Georgia Maxwell, Gradlife Ambassador

cactus with two signs stuck into its pot that read "mistakes happen" and "you are fabulous"

When you think about this on a general, non-specific level, the idea that you would ever not want to be kind to yourself is a strange one. But I find that in some moments, especially when I haven’t lived up to my own expectations, I don’t feel that I deserve kindness. Instead, I feel that I need to be pushed and prodded until I get the results that I want.

I’ll give you an example: the other day in my seminar, I gave a really wrong answer to a question posed by the Professor (and I don’t mean sort of wrong, I mean really, embarrassingly wrong). And rather than be kind to myself about the fact that I made a mistake, I was downright awful. I told myself all sort of nasty things about my intelligence and self-worth that I won’t even bother repeating, all because I made a mistake in class.

I think it’s safe to say that Grad students are a group of hardworking people, and often times, this work ethic is achieved by being tough on ourselves, and pushing ourselves until we achieve our goal. While perseverance and getting the job done is certainly important at times, it can be tricky to know where to draw the line, and when to cut yourself some slack. It’s hard to know when pushing yourself towards perfection stops being helpful and actually starts to hurt you.

2 potted succulents next to each other that have speech bubbles next to them. The one on the left reads "I'm proud of you" and the right reads "Don't give up"

Take my wrong answer example. Classroom discussions are the place to try out new ideas, and inevitably be wrong sometimes. And when I berate myself so heavily for making a mistake, all it does it make me not want to talk in class anymore—which is not only bad for my participation grade, but bad for my learning. Besides, when other people give the wrong answer in class, I never think badly of them, I just think that they’re learning like the rest of us. So why can’t I feel the same way about myself?

While I think it’s always important to remember to be kind to yourself, right now it’s especially so. As the School of Graduate studies notes in their Guide to Working from Home, grad students are being expected to continue their work while being under an immense amount of anxiety and stress, and not to mention, having to work from home. Their advice? “Go easy on yourself,” and I think they’re right. (They also have a ton of other great advice and I highly suggest you check it out).

I realize that being kind to yourself can be hard, and when you feel you’ve been unproductive or off your game, it can be the last thing you want to do. And I am by no means an expert at this—in fact I’m really bad at it. So really, I wrote this post as a reminder to myself that being kind is not only the healthy thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do.

So the next time I’m unhappy with my productivity, my work, you name it; rather than be hard on myself, I’m going to reframe it as a sign I need a little bit of kindness, and see what happens.

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