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Defining Self-Care: Being Gentle With Yourself Means Being Honest and Forgiving

Defining Self-Care: Being Gentle With Yourself Means Being Honest and Forgiving


During my freshman year of college, I went to group therapy. It was for four weeks in April, for one hour every Monday. We gathered in a circle, sat in fold-out chairs in a conference room, and talked about the most enjoyable of topics – anxiety.

Let’s talk about anxiety and self-care.

It feels like anyone I talk to these days struggles with anxiety on some level. There are countless articles about it, which is unsurprising considering we live in a stress-driven society. A focal point in discussions about anxiety is self-care. Sometimes self-care is taking a bubble bath, turning your phone off, putting on a face mask, and lighting a candle.

But, I want to talk about the difficult kind of self-care. Sometimes, self-care is congratulating yourself for cleaning your room, showering, or getting out of bed. Other days, it’s making sure you’re eating and exercising. For some people, it’s making sure you’re not isolating yourself.

In other words, self-care takes many different forms and some are more difficult than others. I’ve found that the most difficult part of my self-care is forgiving myself.

Don’t forget to be gentle with yourself. 

One of those Mondays in April, as I sat in my fold-out chair, I was given a poem. The therapist leading our session had us read Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata.” One line, in particular, stood out to me: “Be gentle with yourself.”

Be gentle with yourself. It sounds so simple, but I think it’s one of the most difficult things to do. I also think it’s an absolutely essential part of self-care.

Being gentle with yourself means being honest and forgiving. It’s recognizing your faults and actively working toward becoming a better person. It’s understanding the aspects of your life that have a negative impact on your mental, emotional, and physical health and working toward removing that toxicity.

And, remember: Forgiveness is important. 

For me, it’s first acknowledging my anxiety and how it affects every part of my life – my classes, my job, my extracurriculars, and my relationships. Secondly, it’s understanding that anxiety is not something I can just remove from my life; but it is something I can work on.

I used to hate myself for having anxiety. I hated how sometimes I couldn’t order food in a restaurant or how I couldn’t speak in class; I continuously isolated myself. I despised anxiety and panic attacks more than anything else. I still struggle with all these things, and I by no means to love them, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m able to forgive myself for them. I’m able to acknowledge them as a less than ideal part of my life and understand that there are steps I can actively take to work on them, and forgive myself.

We’ve got to be able to forgive ourselves, especially for things we can’t control like anxiety. We have to look at the things we don’t necessarily like about ourselves, our flaws, and our shortcomings and say “that’s okay, I’m working on it.”

Anxiety does not make me any less of a person. You are no less deserving of being on this planet than anyone else. We’re all under enough pressure already, cut yourself a little slack.

Self-care is like a toolbox. Some days we need to pull out the face masks and candles. Other days, we need to high-five ourselves for the small victories and forgive ourselves for the frustrations. Whatever your self-care consists of, make sure you’re gentle with yourself.

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