Remember when you were a carefree child? You know what I mean. The days when you would think nothing of throwing on your Superman cape, fireman boots and your pajamas and go out for breakfast? You may have even carried your Harry Potter wand, performing magic as you walked from the car to the doughnut shop. Then, by the time we are 13, that same behavior, behavior that was authentic and unfiltered, would be the ultimate in embarrassment and could trigger an entire afternoon of self-loathing.
We all shift from the free-living, oblivious of the world around us, child, to self awareness and wondering where we fit into this world. We start to judge everything in our lives. From how we look, to our friends, our clothing, even our families, and how we are in school. We become our own worst critic. A voice of negativity having free reign in our minds that impacts us emotionally, spiritually and even physically. A voice of self-criticism and self-loathing (the Voice). The Voice can be so obnoxious, a simple reminder from your dad that you keep leaving the garage door open becomes a internal mental tirade of “Why am I so stupid”, “Can’t I do anything right”, “My dad hates me”….blah blah blah. Sound familiar? And parents wonder why teens become so quiet and brooding.
Fear not, the Voice need not speak in your mind forever, leaving it’s miserable path of destruction! A lucky few are automatically inclined towards self-appreciation and self-love. Others have some work to do. I dare say this work may be most important thing you can do for yourself. Maybe pick just one of the points below over the next few weeks to focus there. Are you a faith based person? Well, now is the time to send a few prayer for guidance and healing. Just being aware of your own internal Voice will start you on a path of growth and change.
Please, be careful how you speak to yourself. You are surely listening.
- Become mindful. At first, it may just be becoming aware of the Voice and what it says. Initially, just be with it, acknowledge it when it shows up and marvel at it’s cruelty. If the Voice is someone you rather not be around any further, it’s time to get it out of your life and replace it with a friendly and loving voice. The simple act of being mindful (in thoughts, actions, words) will allow you to become fully aware of how you feel, what you need and want and who you want to be. Added bonus, you will be far less likely to do anything you feel ashamed of or regret as you will be aware of your own needs.
- Forgive yourself. When I hear a teen speaking ill of him/herself or likely having an internal conversation with their Voice…the simple question I ask is “If you were having this conversation with your best friend, would you be saying the same thing”? Most likely, the answer is “no”. We all make mistakes, we are all human. Try to catch yourself when you start self-criticism. Focus instead on the lesson learned, how/why it happened, what you will do/say differently in the future to be more in-line with who you are and want to be. If it feels really foreign to do this, maybe think of it as giving advice to a friend, and speak to yourself that way.
- Halt the “I should” cycle. What I mean by this is how the Voice can focus endlessly on what you “should be saying” or what you “should be doing” or some other judgement based on comparing yourself to the outside world or what the outside world is telling you to be. All that mental energy keeps you from focusing on what you need and want to be, or what you need and want to do, that expresses your authentic self. Notice what the Voice is saying when it starts up. If it’s a vicious attack using the words “should”, “could” etc. Stop and marvel yet again, shake it off and start thinking about the situation, how you feel and how you want to handle these situations and who you want to be. It you listen and truly feel like you should have/could have something…well then, focus instead on the lesson learned and what to do different in the future.
- Take care of yourself. Yes…sleep, exercise, eating well and healthy, spending time with friends, pets, hobbies, or whatever helps you feel grounded and in-tune with yourself. Take charge of your health and your free-time schedule where you can. Taking good care of ourselves, helps our bodies and minds respond optimally when negative things occur. Set boundaries and limits where things infringe on your well being. When you start feeling uncomfortable, irritable, or your are so hungry you are falling asleep…listen! It’s take time to care for yourself.
- Unfriend those frenemies. We have all had those people in our lives that seem to work hard at either putting themselves above us, or adding to drama that makes us miserable. Don’t spend time with those people. Focus the time you have for friends on being with those that support and cheer you on and have similar interests and goals.
- Get out of your yourself and out of your head. Explore interests, consider giving some free time to others. There is something liberating about focusing on the needs of others. Instead of just hanging out in your room, where you may end up mentally chastising yourself or doing the “I should” dance, you could be taking care of animals in need at the local animal shelter or exploring how to draw a still life in a class, or through tutorials/books or learning how to skateboard or read that new book your favorite author just put out. If you don’t like what you tried…put it aside and move on to the next interest…your authentic self will lose time doing the things you love. Added bonus, potentially more cool stuff to go on your college application or your job applications!
- Build a life you love. Being mindful, shifting your thoughts to how you can change things for the better (instead of the Voice bringing you down), surrounding yourself with like minded friends and spending time giving of yourself and exploring interests will likely set you on a path you can then see more clearly how you really thrive. Not just survive. From that…setting goals and plans to build the live you need to honor your true authentic self will be a more automatic endeavor.
I really believe there truly is no failure. Just lessons learned. The only true failure is not trying. Be brave, be bold, look with-in to find your authentic self and be well.
I bet you have some great ways of self-care…share your wisdom and post a comment!