Mental Health Moments: Accepting Yourself - Flaws and All
⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛
Earlier this month, I shared a letter I wrote to the “Little Girl Me.” In it, I talked about how my anxiety manifests itself as a little girl version of me. It feeds on my fears and uses them to wreak havoc on a seemingly docile day when there is nothing for me to be anxious about.
So, today is my birthday, so I figured I would make this post a personal look into how I combat my perfectionism that morphs into anxiety and depression. After that occurs, the spiral continues downward until I feel more hatred for myself than love.
And I don’t know about you, but people are just way more awesome than we give ourselves credit for. I have grown tired of that same negative feedback loop, so I choose to take a stand by using self-love as my sword and shield. With anxiety and depression, positivity doesn’t always work, but this process gives me hope that there is a brighter tomorrow and silver linings to match.
As I enter my 31st year, I am committed to self-love more than ever. I spent too many years backing myself into a corner or shutting my emotions off to even myself. Here’s to another year of adventures with authenticity and showing the world the true Kaylin.
No matter where you are on your self-love journey, I wanted to share with you some tactics I use to express self love. These may or may not work for you, but if they resonate with only one person, that will make my heart happy!
Write letters to yourself.
This could be in a format a la Little Girl or Little Boy You or a completely stream-of-consciousness journal entry. It could make sense only to you, and you could keep it forever under lock and key or showcase it to the world. You could even tear it up or burn it after writing everything down. Be 100 percent honest and authentic in your writings. Use it to discover what hurts you, what is holding you back and anything else on your mind. I also write lists. This sounds trite, but I made a list of 31 things I love about myself this month. I used the amazing Nothing Left notebook from Ferris Wheel Press and my trusty houndstooth fountain pen. You have to be in style when you write, naturally. ;)
Look at yourself in new ways.
During a recent therapy session, I learned more about transactional analysis, a psychoanalytic theory that assesses your internal and external conversations and assigns an ego state to it. You can click on the link to learn more about it in greater detail; for the sake of this conversation I’m having with you right now, I will describe the theory in how it works in my own life.
We have three ego states:
Critical or nurturing parent
The Child part of me is a people pleaser who always wants to showcase her perfectionism. She feels off when she can’t achieve things, and at times, she lashes out in immature ways. I have more of a Critical Parent in me, so I say things like, “That sounded stupid,” “Why did you do that?,” “You should have done it this way,” etc. This is the self-deprecating part of me, where I criticize the Child part of me in every way possible. This is like a War of the Ages in my mind, where the Child and Parent parts are constantly at odds. The outcome is always the same: I develop anxiety and depression, and the cycle never reaches its end. This is where the Adult version of me comes in. This is the version that is the truest version of my ego, my authentic voice who uses logic and emotion to make decisions. This is the voice that tells the Critical Parent to back down by pushing those hateful thoughts away. This is the voice that comforts the Child and says it’s OK to feel things -- her source of protection without judgment.
Have empathy for your previous “selves.”
I still struggle with this one! This goes hand-in-hand with transactional analysis. When you view yourself in the three ego states and separate your thought processes, you begin to have empathy for who you are == flaws and all. I’ve always been really good at accepting the “good” parts of my personality: kindness, achievement, et al. But, all of us deal with regrets, whether they’re actions, words, lack of action, etc. We each have some that haunt us. I never understood, for example, why I had terrible previous relationships before I met my husband. This was the Child looking for true love, acceptance, the remedy for loneliness. Then, the Adult took over and allowed the unkind words from people to be my undoing and deep dive into anxiety and depression. In the process, I lost my sense of self. The important thing to remember is: we all are trying to do the best we can. Look at your former self with compassion. You didn’t know then what you know now, and you constantly evolve over your lifetime. All of us have flaws, and be thankful they help keep you grounded and self-aware. #silverlinings
Use mantras that resonate with you.
I know this sounds hokey, but stick with me on this one. I use words of affirmation to help shift my mind from a negative place to one of warm, optimism and love. Wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of letting go of perfectionism and actually loving your imperfections. Take some time to write down sayings, quotes or words that mean something to you and your journey toward self-love and enlightenment. Keep them at the front of your mind, write them on a piece of paper and tape them on your wall. Do what you need to do in order to maintain an aura of self-love.
I also use words as I prepare my goals and objectives every December and January. 2019’s word and overall theme for my life is Reclamation, and you heard it here first, but I think 2020 will be Enlightenment.
How do you plan to show yourself some love the rest of this year? Here are some more ways you can show yourself some love.
Please note: These blog posts are not clinical, although we will provide symptoms and other information. These posts are based on my experiences with anxiety and mental health in general. If you or someone you know needs help, visit a website like Mental Health America to learn more.
Mental Health Moments blog posts are every other Tuesday of the month. Our CEO and contributors highlight what it's like to live with a mental health disorder and continue to fight the stigma through storytelling.
Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.