What if I Were...
I realized last fall that I didn’t treat myself the same way I treat others. I touched on this idea a little in this post, but I’m going to expand on it.
I realized that when I had a rough day at work, or didn’t do well on an assignment, I’d beat myself up over it. I’d immediately think of things I could have done differently to make the situation better.
But if my best friend were to tell me she’d had a rough day at work, or that she didn’t do well on an assignment, I’d support her. I’d tell her I loved her. I’d help her talk through what went wrong. If she wanted, I’d help her figure out how to make next time better.
But at no point would I say she was stupid or should have tried harder. That would make me a terrible friend. And yet, I was content to do that with myself.
So I decided to stop and slowly shifted my thinking so I could view myself objectively. I wanted to look at myself the way my friends look at me and treat myself the way I treat them. With grace and kindness and understanding.
This is a simple idea, but it wasn’t simple to execute. It took time, but I got the hang of it. I was able to step outside my own head and look at myself as if I were someone else. Which probably sounds a little odd, so I’ll give an example.
If my best friend had a stressful day coming up, I’d write her a note to remind her that she’s got this and I love her. So when I had a big test coming up, I wrote a note that said “Rachel, you’ve got this and I’m proud of you.” Then I taped to the back of my door where I’d see it the next morning.
If my best friend needed to talk through a mistake she’d made, I’d listen. So when I made a mistake, I talked out loud to myself. I explained what happened as if I were telling her. When I was done, I didn’t feel the need to blame myself or go into a spiral of negative thinking. All I needed was to verbal process like my friend does with me.
I do the same things for myself that I would do for my friend. I often say I’m doing things for “my future self.” Like saving the last Oreo because I know I’ll be excited when I find it after work. Or doing my homework well before it’s due to save my future self the scramble. Or write blog posts early in the week so my future self won’t have to write one last minute.
And when my future self finds these things, the Oreos or completed assignments and blog posts, she’s happy. I’m happy.
All I did was shift my thinking from “I need to do this now” to “imagine how happy I’ll be in the future if I do this now.” That’s the same way I think about my friends. If I do a favor for them, I don’t think I need to. I imagine how happy they’ll be when they discover the completed task.
That’s what I’m doing for myself, favors. Saving Oreos or doing laundry or cleaning are all favors. They’re all favors I would gladly do for my friends. And they’re all favors I am willing to do for myself.
Live to make your future self happy. Imagine the joy when your future self comes home to a clean room or a nice meal. Imagine the joy of your future self finding an encouraging note you left the night before. Imagine the same joy you hope to give your friends, but on yourself.
And when life gets stressful, or things go wrong, take a step back and think, “what would I do if this happened to my best friend? How would I treat them?” Then do the same for yourself.