This was something that a friend said to me when I expressed exhaustion and disappointment over something–probably in the middle of organizing an event in the office.
At the time I read it, it felt almost like a no-brainer, and I was led to think: how many times have I actually been patient with myself? Being told to be patient with others is a given, and it has been battered into us by our parents and elders (most especially into us eldest siblings!) that it has been ingrained in our minds. Outward-going kindness and patience is the norm; and so the concept of being patient with yourself, being kind with yourself, is foreign.
I have learned, however, that this should not be the case, and that the first person whom we should be kind to is ourselves. The below points are peppered with personal anecdotes, just so you know that I have been there, and that the following five points are what I am sharing with you.
You Are a Work in Progress
Being the eldest sibling, I have endured parental pressure to be the perfect role model for my brothers. Also, being the first granddaughter of my paternal grandmother, I have also had to live up to her expectations that I am to be her perfect little princess. For the longest time, I felt that only my achievements and “being good” won the affections of my parents and family, and that I would only be loved because of perfect grades or winning contests. Anything remotely less than that was unacceptable, and warranted scolding and less play time. To me, back then, the equation went: imperfection = failure = no love.
I am happy to say that I am now healing, and stripping off the negative beliefs that have held me captive for years. I am learning that I am a work in progress. My value is not placed on what I do, what medal I win, how much I earn, or how much I can pay for a hipster salad. As a Christian, I hold on to the truth that a King deemed me valuable enough for Him to die for me, and that God loves me so much that He wove me in my mother’s womb and among the innumerable wonders of creation, He calls me by name. The Lord God Himself is at work in my life, and He is not finished.
If that is not your cup of tea, then I will put it this way: You are you. You were not born into this world as the image of perfection you wish to attain, but you are undergoing a process that will lead you there. We were taught that goals must be time-bound, and I agree, especially if it applies to projects that are measurable.
But you are not just a project, you are not something that someone else can just pick up and discard or judge to be a success or a failure. You are a person who is constantly growing and evolving, and that is a beautiful thing! Each stage of growth is an adventure, built upon successes of different shapes and sizes. At each stage, you learn, and most of the time, you stick to what is pleasing to you, to what is important to you.
So as the current adage goes, “you do you” because you #slay. #slayage comes with a price though, and so…
You are allowed to fail
I understand that “failure” can cover a spectrum of significance; and if right now, you find yourself in a place of failure, believe me when I say that you will be okay. It might not make sense now, you might not even want to believe it, but this, too, will pass. Failure is not permanent. You fall down seven times, you get up eight. You and your goals are big suns being hidden by the coin-sized failure staring you in the eye.
In allowing myself to fail, I not only learned not to be hard on myself, but I learned how to be compassionate towards others, too. In allowing myself to fail, I have learned to go out with a heart for learning and teaching.
So do not beat yourself up for your failures. Get up, show up, and you will be–you are–more than okay.
You Can Ask for Help
Fellow (over-)achievers and go-getters, raise your hands!
For the longest time, I did not know how to ask for help. Part of the reason was that my parents raised me to be self-motivated and independent–and those are good things! However, I had gotten to the point where I had become self-absorbed, that when other people did not display certain traits, I stomped off and willed myself to do things on my own. Self-absorption warped my beliefs and polluted my relationships. I did things without asking for help as I was too prideful and self-centered. I became bitter and angry when people did not help me out of their own volition when… I did not even ask for help in the first place! See the conundrum in that?
In all aspects of life, you are not alone. You can be solitary, you need your “me time,” and I can totally relate to that. But as I shed my pride and self-centeredness, the fact sank in, that I am not the center of the universe. I am human, and wherever I go, I deal with people–I have relationships. I have had to build my faith that people were not out to sabotage me to see me fail. They have their struggles as I have mine, and I have found that having people around me to listen to me whine, to have a shoulder to cry on, to encourage me, and to pray for me has helped me see through dark times.
There is no shame in asking for help. I for one can testify to this, and in learning how to put my pride aside and to ask for help, I have made more friends and strengthened the relationships in my family.
You Are Allowed to be Weak
With bookstores and media constantly bombarding us how to be better-faster-stronger, or how to bring your “A-Game,” it has become hard to recognize and accept our vulnerability. There is also the stigma over showing vulnerability and weakness, and so we are forced to put on a fake smile and pretend everything is okay. With this kind of mentality buzzing around society every day, it is easy to find ourselves emotionally and mentally drained and cornered. Isolation, especially if self-imposed, is a dangerous place to be.
Know this: it is okay to be weak. It is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to be not okay.
A friend has told me that he did not want to “rely” on others because they have their own burdens; but I have learned that positivity in numbers is a good thing to have. We are human, and we are limited. Or if you do not like that wording: all of us, without exception, have our strengths and weaknesses. Relationships help fill in the gaps that we have, and people provide the support and encouragement we need when we run out of them.
It is okay to feel sad over something, to feel angry, to be upset; it is okay to disagree with someone; it is okay to dislike something; it is okay to doubt and to question; it is okay to be disappointed with yourself; why? Because you acknowledge what happened and you accept how you feel about it. Only from that point does healing and recovery begin, and once that has come to pass, you can conquer.
You Are Allowed to Rest
It is not for nothing that our bodies become dead weight when we are exhausted. For seven years, I have burned the candle at both ends, and it has only led to physical and mental exhaustion (like suddenly dropping out of college seemed like a good idea; but all I did was do an absence without leave), and eventually, depression (me constantly thinking that everyone was just waiting for me to fail, and that I deserved none of the good things happening to me). I wanted to be perfect inside and out, when in reality, I was falling apart.
I had to face that and accept that the best solution for me was to rest. To me, that meant turning off my phone and computer, properly sitting down for a meal and taking my time with it at my favorite restaurant, talking with a trusted friend or family member, just sitting down to listen to music–and just listening to it and appreciating it–as opposed to just having it in the background, and getting lost in a book.
I offer this advice to friends, and I realize that it is only a lesson you learn when you find yourself falling apart: yes, it is worthwhile to invest in your dreams and your goals, but not at the expense of your well-being and your relationships. I understand that you love what you do, but do not forget to love yourself and your body.
It is known that plants do not thrive without sun and water, and an experiment has shown that speaking curses at them actually kills them. So why, when you far are more precious than plant life, would you allow yourself to be mentally, emotionally, and physically beaten up by yourself? Life is a journey and we are all bound to encounter our personal stumbling blocks. Our failures are not final sentences, but are turning points in which we grow in character.
I have gone through failures, and I am now learning to treat myself kindly, and so I am able to write this.
As Filipinos, we are fond of bidding each other goodbye, saying, “Ingat!”–“Take care!” I suppose it has become an offhand replacement for “goodbye,” but I do mean it when I say it. And so I say it to you:
Take care, and be patient with yourself.