Maggie Zhan

No Matter What Happens, Always Be Kind to Yourself

Why is it that as a culture, we think we always have to be tough, no matter the situation? Come to think of it, yes, there is merit in being strong in any given situation. It allows us to move forward, headstrong. But how about if we experience pain and rejection and an emotional blow, leaving us with a hollow feeling as a result of abandonment or being cheated on? How about the need to be human every once in a while?

As a culture, the idea inculcated in us is to always be strong because weakness is frowned upon. It’s as if we have been designed to have an iron core, to believe being vulnerable will only result in a juvenile approach to things that require strong resolve.

Growing up, my parents disciplined us whenever we did something wrong. It is typical in a Filipino household in the ‘90s and even early ‘20s for children to experience watered-down corporal punishments as a result of being unruly or committing a mistake. For a time, I relished the idea and framed those experiences as blueprints that gave me good manners and a sense of discipline.

It was later in adulthood when I learned the deep-seated psychological damage those experiences caused. You see, while there were punishments, there was also the lack of explanation for why they did what they did and, by extension, comfort from my parents. I saw those corporal punishments as normal. I wish I knew better; I wish I knew then what I know now. Maybe I would have been able to handle relationships better as an adult. Unfortunately, I didn’t know any better. But I am lucky because I met someone who supports me as I go through this rediscovery.

Psychology states that mammals, like humans, are born with a system that allows us to care for others as a friend would or to care for ourselves. However, since culture dictates we have to be tough, we forget this basic idea. This is the reason why we continuously beat ourselves up when we commit a mistake as adults; we put ourselves down relentlessly and, as a result, we see ourselves less worthy of good things.

This is the reason why we have people committing suicide.

Fortunately, psychology says there is a way to combat this toxic cycle. We simply have to be kind and compassionate to ourselves.

To anyone experiencing anxiety, take a deep breath. You are coming from a place where only you have a full picture of the pain or conflict. Acknowledge them, but also acknowledge that this pain and conflict are part of a human experience, whatever caused them. Embrace the idea that you are not alone in going through this spectrum of emotions and experiences. Moreover, also embrace the fact that you also deserve some care. Instead of beating yourself up, tell your Inner Critic to go easy on you, that it’s okay to feel these emotions because you are human.

Allow your Inner Hero to give you comfort by saying your feelings are valid, your thoughts are valid, your existence is valid. I remember my friend telling me to be a friend to myself. I want to share this line with you: Be a friend to yourself.

To anyone who feels rejected or in any emotional pain, I feel you. You will go through a carousel of emotions ranging from denial, anger, bargaining, and depression in rapid succession, and it will feel like the carousel isn’t going to stop any time soon. But acknowledge each emotion and your responses to them. Are you being kind to yourself? Or are you being your biggest critic?

If you are rejected or cheated on or abandoned, it is never 100% about you. While the abandonment is a reflection of the many decisions you and the other person made, the result is not a one-way street. It takes two to tango, remember? So instead of criticizing yourself—that maybe if you were like this, or maybe you look better physically, or if you behaved differently he wouldn’t have cheated on you or left you—tell yourself that you are grateful for the experience. That you accept you will go through the carousel until you are ready for the last stop called Acceptance. Acknowledge the pain as part of the shared human experience, but be compassionate in how you react to them.

Give yourself a hug every time. Be your own friend.

We are all born with the system necessary to elicit care, kindness, and compassion to other people, more so to ourselves. But it requires mindfulness and self-awareness. But by practicing always giving yourself a hug and being your own friend, no matter what happens, you’ll find yourself being kind to yourself.

While as a culture we are taught to be tough in any given situation, never forget that you are human. And it’s okay to be human every once in a while, if only to give yourself the care, kindness, and compassion you need.