Being Kinder to Ourselves in 2021
By Arshia Bathla
I won’t lie – I did google how to be kinder to myself in 2021, all the articles that popped up could be divided into three categories: the first, filled with vague advice- ‘embrace the unknown’ or ‘learn to forgive.’ The second, written by 45-year-olds who couldn’t possibly imagine what navigating life as a young adult in today’s time is- and the third? Vague advice by 45-year-olds.
Before talking about why this goal is so important, I’d like to highlight that this article won’t be a step-by-step guide, it won’t miraculously help us turn our life around and have a healthy relationship with ourselves, if only it were that easy.
Social Media and Young Adults: An on-and-off relationship
Being kind to yourself can be hard and when you grow up in the age of Instagram filters, editing apps, and #doingitforthegram?, it doesn’t get any easier. Aadhirai, a 17-year-old from Chennai says, “Social media leads to feelings of insecurity and unnecessary comparisons, even when I’m aware that the picture-perfect reality isn’t a true depiction of how everything is in real life, it becomes difficult to separate the two.” Of course, going off social media isn’t an option most of us choose these days. One other way we can attempt to minimize the damage is by reminding ourselves that while we scroll ourselves into a rut, most of what we see is just an exciting snapshot of another person’s life which may be a lot similar to ours.
Ezhil, a research scholar from Pondicherry University, explained how our selves can be perceived as a whole, and overuse of social media slowly chips away parts of this whole, leaving behind insecurities and low self-esteem.
There are always the tiniest hints that our generation understands the consequences of our lives being tied to social media and is constantly trying to help each other be kind to ourselves. Whether that be having conversations about body image issues, having pages dedicated to self-care, or attempting to have healthier discussions about sexual health.
Source: Simone Goleb
In 2021, when we see that one friend celebrating their 100th achievement on social media and feel a pang of jealousy? Let’s promise ourselves that we’ll take a deep breath and remind ourselves that everyone moves at a different pace and that the post or story is just a snapshot of their best times, a tiny window into their life leading to a room full of stories we’ll never know.
2020 took away our audience
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t care about what other people think of us, our emotions and actions. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. We all know the pressure we face because of the audience we have around us, both digital and real life, perceiving and judging our every move – our brains always switch between ‘Are they looking at me?’, ‘Are they laughing at me’, and ‘Do I look alright?’
This audience was yanked from under our feet this year, (ideally) we’ve been living in our safe space and been given the freedom of spending time with ourselves, experimenting and unlearning the stereotypes we tried so hard to fulfill. As highlighted in this article in Vice, “During the lockdown, the content I consume has been intentional, my interactions with people are by choice and with those who care about me as a person.”
The pandemic, (for the privileged, at least) was a much needed break from a fast paced life that left us with very little time to give time to ourselves, to understand our emotions and allow ourselves to respond properly to all that was happening around us.
One lesson to take away from 2020, along with a hundred others that we’ve learned this year, is that sometimes all we need is to give ourselves some time and space to learn and forgive ourselves for all that we put our body and mind through.
Shrishti says, “Before the lockdown, I was a very different person. I tried to make myself look or be happy around others even if that wasn’t how I felt, because I didn’t want to be the person who’d dull the mood. I’d always think about my hair, my clothes and the way my body looks. In March, a lot of that began to change. I could sit by myself and allow myself to process my emotions, understand why I was feeling the way I was and that helped me connect with myself. I finally started to become comfortable with my body, without the constant pressure of having to think about what people would feel if I dressed a certain way or cut my hair another way. I think accepting yourself is a huge task, but it’s also a very important step towards being kinder to yourself.”
A Guide (Kind of)
Susan David, a psychologist from Harvard talks about how self-compassion isn’t about being positive all the time, even though people often confuse it to be so. It’s about embracing the negative thoughts or feelings that you encounter and attempting to understand why you feel a certain way.
Don’t we always try to create a safe space for our loved ones when they’re too hard on themselves? Send them the usual brigade of drink water, take a break, go for a walk, and ‘do you want to vent?’ texts? Why not do that for ourselves? The next time you feel you or what you’re doing isn’t enough, try to treat yourself the same way you’d treat a friend. Give yourself the safe space you need to connect with your thoughts, no matter how negative or positive.
Source: Wall Street Journal
If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that we live in a time when we’re all connected – from hospital rooms to different countries. This connection reveals itself when we need it the most, whether it be for solidarity, comfort or to seek happiness in a year that gives us everything but that. But, at the risk of sounding like the dreaded article from the introduction only serving the purpose of providing us with vague advice, we could be connected with everyone around us and still be unfulfilled because we forget to connect with and be kind to ourselves.
2020 has been the year from hell, we’ve made a billion promises from kinder to nature, to being a more responsible citizen, but in fulfilling all those promises don’t forget to be kinder to yourself first.