When you feel down about yourself, it is common to focus on this toxic energy and make the situation even worse–we have all been there. Maybe you got a lower grade on your test than usual, and even though everyone goes around saying “A grade is just a number”, you can’t seem to shake the feeling that you aren’t as smart as you thought. Maybe you wake up and feel less pretty than usual, and then you look at everyone else around you and think you are missing something. Maybe you are going through a breakup, and you blame yourself for it even though there could be a bunch of other reasons that things went wrong. While these are just a few examples, it is normal for negativity to arise in life–the world isn’t really rose-colored. Situations and context matter, and it would be silly to apply the same “toxic positivity” mindset to every single thing in life. Sometimes, though, I think it is important to sit down and separate the internal from the external, and to realize that we should treat ourselves better during a wave of negativity.
I talk to myself in my head all the time, and it’s usually comforting, right? We become so used to the way we react to things that we may not realize when we are simply putting ourselves down and dwelling on the tiny things that we did “wrong”. It took me a long time to realize that, more often than not, I hurt myself way more than anyone else. I struggle a lot with perfectionism, and if you relate to this, you know how hard it is to let go of the times that you wanted a different outcome or wanted to “do better”. My perfectionist tendencies often arise in the form of guilt and the weight of thinking that I did not try at all if I can recognize my own flaws in something. This especially happens in the context of academics. I preoccupy myself with trying to be perfect, and when it doesn’t work out, I choose to tell myself all of the things that I am afraid of: that I am not smart enough, that I don’t have as much potential as I thought I did, and that maybe I’m a failure–instead of being uplifting and kind to myself.
Once I figured out that the way I treat myself internally is honestly pretty toxic, it felt like the sky opened up (okay, maybe not that dramatic, but it did feel like a real revelation). I’m a big believer in self-care, but I forgot that being good to yourself works on the outside and inside. When Harry Styles says “Treat people with kindness”, I think he means the people around us and ourselves. Of course, this is easier said than done. There is one piece of advice that has helped me the most, that I’ve just heard randomly or seen on social media, but I never really stopped to think about it until now: Treat yourself like you would your best friend(s). We all know to treat others the way we want to be treated, but we should also make sure to treat ourselves the best way we can. I love my friends dearly, and think about it, if your friend was upset about anything you likely wouldn’t stop to analyze and figure out what they did wrong. You would comfort them and reassure them that they are trying their best, and that they are not a failure if they don’t reach their own expectations. I try to visualize a theoretical scene, which may sound silly, but I can hear my conversations with my friends and I know that we try to send positivity all around. When I feel myself going downhill, like I’m about to spiral into a tornado of toxicity, I ask myself what I would say to my best friend if she and I switched places for a second. This truly changed the way I think, and I am very much trying to treat myself like a friend. We all deserve the same kindness, respect, and love that we give to others, and there are no qualifications for it. If you can turn a situation into a whole bout of negative energy surrounding yourself, it’s worth a try to redirect that energy towards something better. Always thank yourself for trying, because kindness goes a long way in any context.