Why it is so important to be kind to yourself
I recently woke up after having a dream in which I was having a conversation with my ten year old self. I was observing her and noticing our similarities. Our nails looked the same, although she still bit hers. Our hair looked the same, except she didn’t care as much whether hers was brushed or tangled. Our belly buttons looked the same except she wasn’t afraid to stick her tummy out and show off how big it could get. It was as if I was looking at a less self-conscious, more innocent and open version of me. My ten year old self was playful and joyous and my older self was very gentle with my younger self. I spoke to her with much empathy, understanding, and patience.
This dream made me introspective because I realized that in my waking life, I do not talk to myself as if I am an innocent child. I am not as gentle and kind as I was in my dream. I talk to myself as if I am a “bad” adult. I say things like, “Come on! Why did you do that? That was so dumb. You are so dumb.” My inner voice can be ruthless and not understanding.
For example, if I get a bad grade on a grad school test, I could have a negative dialogue with myself that goes like this: “I can’t believe you failed. Why are you so stupid? Why can’t you ever be good enough? You are wasting your money! You are worthless!” When I do this to myself, I become frozen in fear and shame. I feel closed down and not good enough. This inner conversation gets me nowhere and ends up making me feel worse. But, if I can take a deep breath, slow down, and be gentle with myself as I ask what happened, I am much more likely to solve the problem. Then, the dialogue could go something like this: “Okay, sweetie—what happened? Everyone makes mistakes. I’m here for you. Let’s think of better studying strategies for the next test. Who could you ask for help? Everyone needs help. You tried the best you could and remember it’s only a test. You are still brilliant to me. We just need to come up with new learning strategies for you for next time. I love you.”
By doing this, I am creating space for growth and learning instead of closing myself down and teaching myself to not give up. I can then probe deeper in a wiser, non-judgmental way and self-reflect. By speaking to myself as if I am that little girl, I can communicate in a more loving way with the 25 year old me today.
My challenge to you is to have a conversation with your ten year old self. Ask your inner child, “What do you want?” “What would comfort you right now?” “How do you need to be taken care of?” It’s possible that with some gentleness and self- love, you could give yourself the understanding you have been missing.