In Canada, we are blessed with the freedoms of speech and of choice. When discussing bullying, students are taught to stand up for themselves, for their friends, to notify an adult. Many schools in Canada are implementing the “Roots of Empathy” course, a curriculum which aims to teach empathy to students as they interact with and help to care for a baby as it develops. But when have we ever been taught to take care of ourselves?
I don’t just mean mental health; I mean self-respect, self-acceptance and self-love. Canadians are given the right to freedom of speech and freedom of choice – permitted that we are not infringing on anybody else’s ability to exercise those same rights. This is an important law that I agree with wholeheartedly. I also believe that self-care and self-love are equally as important. Respect and sympathy for others are imperative values instilled in us from the day we are born, but when has the importance of respect for one’s self ever been explained to us? We have been coached our whole lives to stand up to those who mistreat us, but the time has come to learn to stand up not only for ourselves, but to ourselves.
We are our own harshest critics and though sometimes, this can be a good thing; other times, not so much. When you have not completed an assignment to the best of your ability, you know it, and hopefully, this awareness pushes you to work harder to improve it. Honesty and valuable feedback are not equivalent to self-diminishment and an overly critical inner voice. Imagine if one of your friends treated you that way – telling you not to bother trying on those pants because you’re too fat for them, or not trying out for that team or programme because you won’t be good enough. Declaring them a terrible friend, you would most likely promptly, and rightfully-so, kick them to the curb.
Unwavering and unconditional selflessness, while admirable, is harmful to yourself. A reasonable lack of selflessness does not equate to selfishness, but rather kindness towards one’s self. Kindness and respect should not only be applied outwardly. Similarly to relationships with others, trust and reliance have to be earned.
So, the next time you find yourself standing in front of a mirror criticizing yourself for something you can’t help, or hesitating in front of a sign-up sheet, take a moment before reaching for the self-destruct button. Try being a friend to yourself – because kicking yourself to the curb is hardly an option.