When we’re young, we’re all told to follow the golden rule, assumingly golden because the value of this statement is so important – to treat others how you’d like to be treated. We go through most of our lives thinking we know what this means: to be kind, caring, generous, and empathetic towards others. Growing up, I’ve always kept this in the back of my mind, whether or not I’ve always followed through, that kindergarten-esque statement has always held its own in my mind. However, with that mantra leading me, I started to hear a soft-spoken voice asking me this: how do I want to be treated? How do I want to treat myself?
From my observations, as a population we learn to grow and move without really asking ourselves that question. For me, knowing how I should connect with myself and treat myself was one of the toughest questions I had ever been asked. I feel as though so many of us go through life not realizing that we have control over our thoughts, we have control over how we go about talking to ourselves, and therefore how we go about living. Those voices that tell you that you can’t do something, that you can’t make it, you can’t push through…those voices aren’t you. Those voices don’t want you to thrive. We all have them, we all express those voices in different ways, we all hear them differently, but no one ever talks about those voices and how to control them. Too often we hear people putting each other down, using words and thoughts as weapons–it happens internally as well. If one puts themselves down, how are they going to refrain from expressing that, and doing it elsewhere? Thus, how do we approach the golden rule if we don’t know how to apply it? The answer definitely isn’t black and white, but a whole spectrum of colors, one triumph over this question may work for some, but not for others. So, instead of trying to answer the question of how do we know how to treat ourselves and how do we continue doing so with kindness, I’ll simply express what I’ve learned.
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
It’s all a brain game. Half of it is trying to work through what most of us have been classically conditioned to understand about ourselves and how we connect with others, and half of it is trying to learn why it’s so important to be kind to ourselves, and then there’s overcoming a literal negativity-bias in your brain. Like any new language, treating yourself with kindness takes time and practice. It takes literal retraining of the brain to think in a new pathway, to focus on positive experiences and project them in different ways: a retraining of your brain until noticing the positive in yourself comes naturally- a positive pathway. Look in the mirror and notice what you love about yourself, notice how special it is to look so uniquely you. Look inside of yourself every day, notice how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned throughout your journey, what you enjoy about being. Working to retrain your brain will not happen overnight, you may still struggle with those loud, obnoxious, cruel voices in your head for years, but you can’t let them affect your progress. .
While remembering how important it is to be kind to others, don’t forget about yourself. You are the one that you will spend the most time with, you are the one you have through thick and thin, you are the one that knows all of your secrets, all of your worries, all of your greatest goals and dreams–you decide what you want to do with that. You decide how you want to continue on your journey. The path to a greater world first starts with individuals to look inside themselves and work on being the best they can be, loving themselves fully. Ask yourself: Am I treating myself how I deserve to be treated?