I’ve noticed that people are more likely to admit to their mistakes than honestly credit their own accomplishments. I’ve also noticed that people often have difficulty accepting love from others, especially when it’s from themselves.
Many have heard the term “Imposter Syndrome” to describe the feelings of fraudulence during moments of success or promotion. Setting that important issue aside, I’ve noticed that this difficulty of accepting promotions and job oppurtunities extends itself beyond the professional arena. This is especially true in college when we feel an “emotional imposter syndrome;” that frequent feeling that we don’t deserve the positive things happening to us. We have allowed ourselves to become accustomed to keeping only our shortcomings on the dashboards of our heads, and to leaving any praiseworthy items to collect dust in the backs of our minds next to middle-school-math formulas and old recipes.
So, I must ask, when did it become socially acceptable to talk down to ourselves? When I started to notice how difficult it was for the people around me, myself included, to accept positive happenings in our lives, I began to wonder: When did we forget that we are entitled to possess feelings of positivity, confidence and fierceness about ourselves, from ourselves?
Comedian, actor and writer, Amy Poehler writes on the importance of being kinder to oneself in her memoir Yes, Please, saying, “Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do.” When I first read these words I had flashbacks to late-night, panic-filled phone calls to and from friends commiserating on never-ending essays; or, an orgo test with too many structures to memorize; sometimes, even a comment that went awry in class that left you more embarrassed than you would have liked. I remember comforting my friends, soothing their insecurities with memories of moments filled with wonder, from the not so distant past; offering moments where their best selves shined for all to recognize and appreciate. I reminded them of their real selves, not letting the blunders of everyday life dull their extraordinary lights.
Thinking of the care that I demonstrate to these friends I began to think of how I talk to myself. Do I conjure up memories of success to motivate myself when I feel as if I am in the dredges of failure? Do I remind myself of my moments of weakness, rather than reminding myself of my survival and strength?
This is not to say that we should not depend on our friends to build us up when we are down. On the contrary, I firmly believe that the attentiveness of friends who support one another is a hallmark of true friendship. However, I write to remind both myself and my peers that we all too often berate ourselves, expecting our harsh “honesties” to sober ourselves up and move us forward when in reality it pushes us farther down, away from productivity, happiness and positive states of mind. We need to remember that not only are we capable of treating ourselves as well as we treat our friends, but we are obligated to do so.
On the brink of graduation, I am seeing people apply for jobs, looking for apartments in Washington Heights. I hear people (almost) constantly talking about who they’re going to live with, who their coworkers will be. Listening to these conversations amongst my friends and the nervous stage-whispers in the elevators, I started to think that people need to learn how to be their own friends. I think people underestimate how treating ourselves as we treat others (family, roomates, significant others, coworkers, etc.) is how it should be. Of course, we can’t control how roommates or friends or even professors will react or treat us; but, it is when we realize that there is always someone who supports us (take a guess who). I think looking at ourselves through this lens has the potential to motivate us forward, to strengthen us during trying times and to let us smile when we feel like it.
While I accept that college is a time during which we make friends and learn through interactions with these new friends, I ask: Why not become friends with the person who has known you the longest, and with whom you will spend the most time?
Many of us learn from our schools and homes the importance, as well as the ins and outs, of showing compassion to others. But what about ourselves? When do we learn to be patient with ourselves? In what class do we explore the importance of giving ourselves the benefits of the doubt? When do we begin to understand that sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack? I think that if we believe in ourselves as much as we believe in our friends, we can accomplish extraordinary things.
In the last few weeks of the semester, let’s challenge ourselves to work hard on not putting ourselves down, and give ourselves pep talks of encouragement; let’s embrace the power within ourselves for the sake of ourselves. We’ll remind ourselves that not only are we capable of being kind, supportive, and loving, but that we deserve it, too.