A photo by Christopher Sardegna. unsplash.com/photos/CMOa3H1SXG0

Don’t beat yourself up or judge yourself

because you don’t accomplish as much as someone else,

because it takes you hours to get into the writing groove

because you have a hard time shifting gears

because you work slower

because you’re more sensitive to the world.

And because you’re more sensitive,

be sensitive with yourself.

Be gentle with yourself

when it feels like you’re wearing a dark veil over your face

and moving through neck-deep mud.

Be gentle with yourself

when you get distracted easily

thoughts scampering

or pounding in your head

like heavy hands on piano keys.

(And when you do, close your eyes.

Take deep breaths.

Put on your headphones.

Or get up, and remember

why it all matters.)

Be gentle with yourself

when you don’t feel like doing anything

but staying in bed

all day long.

Don’t automatically assume that you’ll be terrible at something.

Trust in yourself,

even though it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Listen to your body.

Listen to your heart.

Take in feedback, but

remember that you know what’s best for you.

Don’t be so timid. Speak up.

Be your own kind of powerful.

Don’t seek validation outside the walls of your bones.

Accept that you’ve made poor choices in the past.

Don’t punish yourself.

Don’t play the “you suck” tape.

Over and over. And over.

Don’t let what others—friends, family, people on social media, in magazines—

are doing dictate what you’re doing.

Don’t let their thoughts, beliefs, actions become another expectation

another should

another way to pressure, rush

and overwhelm yourself.

Don’t use it as ammunition for your ravenous inner critic.

Again, be gentle.

Be patient.

Sob when you need to sob.

Slow down when you feel stressed.

Say it’s hard when it’s hard.

What you need is what you need.

Be curious about these needs.

Be curious about yourself.

Be curious about your concerns,

your loves, your dreams, your disappointments.

Be curious and open

as though you are studying a tree

or the sky,

because “we too are linked to the entire universe”

as Henri Matisse once wisely said.

Remember to be silly

to play, to laugh,

to take breaks,

to wonder

and wander.

Life is not an endless list of chores

or tasks

or responsibilities.

It is both and.

Celebrate the small stuff.

And remember it’s OK

to celebrate yourself.

***

What advice would you give yourself? Write it out. Return to it regularly. Or as needed.

The title and topic of this piece was inspired by Louise Erdrich’s poem.

Photo by Christopher Sardegna.