Being young comes with unique pressures. There’s pressure to be successful, find a passion, perform well in school, and become the “best” version of ourselves. This weight can become overwhelming without allowing ourselves space to make mistakes, rest, and grow in the non-linear nature of growth.
The stress we place on ourselves can be exemplified by a recent TikTok trend displaying hustle culture in which women share how they became ‘that girl’. These videos show aesthetically pleasing and productive morning routines involving waking up at 6 am, drinking lemon water, and working out, all in an effort to become ‘that girl’.
When I was watching these videos during the height of the trend, I found that at first I felt motivated and inspired. I later realized how drained I felt from the pressure to become the “best version” of myself that was idealized on social media. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to do all the right things to become my own version of this trend. While it’s okay to take inspiration from something, it is not healthy to expect a constant positive trend towards self-improvement.
Someone close reminded me that we don’t simply reach a point of perfection, in which we’ve made it and become this “best” version of ourselves. Life is about trial and error, mistakes, and growth. The notion of constantly having to be better – prettier, smarter, more successful – can be toxic. Realizing this has helped me be kinder to myself. It also captures the importance of self-compassion that I have been introduced to more recently.
Last summer, I went to a self-compassion workshop led by an art therapist. I said yes to attending the workshop to try something new, but I was surprised by how much the concept of self-compassion resonated with me. Upon further research, I was blown away by what has been found on the subject.
Dr. Kristen Neff, a researcher, academic, and social worker who studies self-compassion, defines self-compassion as treating ourselves with kindness and understanding when we experience personal shortcomings.
During the workshop, most people shared that they find it easier to be kind to others in comparison to being kind to themselves. I find this sentiment to be true in my own life. My response to a friend’s hardship or mistake is often more loving and understanding than my response would be if I was in the same position. It’s not that our advice to a friend would be disingenuous, but that we feel we need self-criticism.
I encourage you to watch Kristen Neff’s Ted Talk. Here are some of my main takeaways, but keep in mind Dr. Neff’s delivery and passion for her research is worth the watch.
It is helpful to understand why we find it so hard to be kind to ourselves. We tend to think of self-compassion as synonymous with lacking motivation or lacking the self-awareness to identify how our own behaviour plays a role in our shortcomings. So, when faced with hardship or personal failing, we respond with self-criticism rather than self-compassion. We feel we need self-criticism to remain motivated.
Dr. Neff has discovered that it is actually motivating to show self-compassion. By being able to mindfully accept your imperfection and respond to yourself with kindness, you find internal validation and peace. In turn, you can cope with the inevitable struggles of life with more ease because you allow yourself to make mistakes.
Being kind to ourselves does not come from a place of high self-esteem. The difference between self-esteem and self-compassion, is that self-esteem is found through comparison of ourselves to others. It is fleeting when we don’t view ourselves as above average or successful.
In contrast, self-compassion exists when things become difficult, and even when we don’t view ourselves to be better. To be self-compassionate is to recognize that our imperfections are a universal human experience.
This mindset is fundamental in shifting the way we perceive your setbacks and lull periods. Getting up every day and taking it on as we are on that day, is enough. We do not have to become ‘that girl’. We already are ‘that girl’. xo.