I was chatting with a good friend from uni a couple of days ago, when she mentioned she’d been asking herself some big life questions and worrying about them. Should she go backpacking instead of building a career, and if not now, when? Is she even in the right industry? Should she be looking for a long-term relationship, like most of our other friends?  

At times it can really seem that everyone else has a plan whilst you’re still drifting along with no clear direction. I’m sure the expectation to have ‘ticked things off the list’ by a certain time or age  – graduating, saving for a house, getting engaged or having children for example – can resonate with most people.

This got me thinking. I’d spent a bit of time reassuring her that no-one has a concrete plan, despite the pressure to be following one, and you can only do what feels best for you at the time. It didn’t take much on my part to show her some kindness . . .

This isn’t particularly ground-breaking – but our chat was a real positive mood booster for her. It made me consider how easily we’re able to be kind to others, yet find it much harder to be kind to ourselves.

So often we’re our own toughest critic – whether it’s tied up in making progress at work, the way we look, friendships or other relationships. Sometimes we say things to ourselves we’d never dream of saying to other people, so maybe next time you hear the negative internal monologue, take note and ask yourself –

How could I be a little kinder to myself?

Positive affirmations are a really popular way to train your brain to think positively. Our brains think the things we tell ourselves are true, and we can use this to improve our wellbeing and change our mental outlook.

A great positive affirmation I’ve seen online relates to body image. Try replacing ‘I have chunky unattractive legs’ with ‘I have strong legs that allow me to walk, run, and get the most out of life’.

And in the middle of this pandemic, I’m encouraging myself to replace ‘I am unfocused and not giving my best performance’ with ‘I am doing my best to get through a pandemic and working in a way that is best for me’.

It seems everyone I follow on Instagram has been baking loaf upon loaf of banana bread, embarking on new fitness regimes, and staying in touch with friends over a string of Zoom quizzes. I’ve decided to be kind to myself and remember this isn’t a true reflection of people’s everyday lives. Lockdown isn’t a competition to see who can be most productive.

The way we treat ourselves has a huge impact on our mental health, and so, in reflection of this year’s theme of kindness, I want to remind everyone how important it is to be kind to yourself.