We hear phrases such as “Listen to your gut” or “Love yourself” everywhere. They are screaming off social media platforms, life coaches use them, we see them written everywhere but do we really grasp the concept of being kind to oneself and loving oneself and listening to our gut?
As always, I’ll start from experience. A few months back I got my bachelors in Italian and Spanish philology. There I was, all proud of myself for finishing the three years without failing one single class, with a title in front of my name and then the time came for me to start my masters which would have taken me two years to finish. That feeling… I’ll never forget that feeling. Every time I thought about going back to my university, spending hours in classes, studying, preparing for exams… It made me want to die. I had extreme panic attacks. My gut was yelling “Hell NOOOOOO”. I told my gut she should shut up because society and my family told me that the field I was in, which was foreign languages, was nothing without a master’s degree. So I listened to what others had to say and I started my masters.
The panic attacks increased. My health was deteriorating. I had to use every single piece of strength I had to pull myself out of bed and attend a single lecture. I hated the world. Negativity was oozing out of my skin. Then my gut decided to fight against my decisions in every way possible. I was never the one to oversleep. If my alarm went off, I was on my feet already making my morning coffee. All of the sudden, I started oversleeping. I wouldn’t hear my alarm and I started to miss my lectures. After a while, I started failing exams. It took me a while to gather the strength and say that I quit. Right then and there I placed the label “FAILURE” on my forehead in big, bold red letters for everyone to see. I called myself a failure.
I promised my family and myself that in a year I would enroll in a private university and start a masters in International relations and diplomacy which costs a lot of money but I came to an agreement with my mom that we would get a student loan from the bank. Since I considered myself to be a failure, I didn’t start looking for a job in my field of expertise because the part of my brain which told me I was a failure also told me that there are people with masters and PHD’s in languages, people who studied abroad who were better than me and that no one would hire me because they could hire those other people who weren’t failures like me. I got a job as a waitress. Regarding that experience I think it’s enough to say that I can’t count how many times I had to drink to make it through my shift but I considered my behavior to be okay because I was a failure.
Time passed by, my health was getting worse, I was making all of the wrong choices regarding relationships in my life and then it hit me. I hated myself and I resented myself so much that I was torturing myself at a job I hated and punishing myself just because I didn’t fit in with societies norms. The time came for me to get the student loan. I was depressed for weeks. I didn’t talk to anyone. I ended up in the emergency room because I couldn’t breathe normally. Life was just bitch slapping me and then, after months of banging my head against a wall and living just to survive I decided I can do better.
I quit my job and started a new one where I am somewhat in the proximity of my field of studies. I said no to the private university and decided to attend lectures in Digital marketing because this is something that gets me excited. How did this shift in my behavior happen? I started to be kind to myself.
I scrapped off that “FAILURE” label from my forehead and told myself that it took courage to drop out of school and start finding myself. It took strength to admit that I was lost and unhappy. It took fucking balls to take control of my life and start living it according to my rules. The shift first happened in my head and then it manifested in my life. All I had to do was give myself a pat on the back and tell myself that I am doing the best that I can and that it’s okay to take time off to find whatever it is that’s missing from my life. Changes aren’t painless. Changes aren’t easy but if during that change period you hate yourself and have negative self-talk you will only make things worse for yourself.
Do I know what the hell I am doing with my life? NO
Do I hate myself for that? Also NO
I still relapse into my old behavior patterns such as drinking, smoking and hating myself for not being the poster child for society norms but I also identify that behavior quickly and implement positive self-talk into my life. Don’t call yourself a failure and don’t put yourself down. You are so much more that what others think of you. Hell, you are so much more than what you think of yourself. Give yourself credit for how far you came. Recognize your mistakes and learn from them, don’t use them as fuel to the fire of your self-hate.
You need to reconnect with your inner world in order to start being kind to yourself. You have to do this via a process that suits you best such as writing, meditating, exercising etc. That voice in your head that is trying to put you down will always be there, you just need to be louder than it.