Last night my SO and I tried a little exercise – after successfully putting our daughter to bed, we sat on the sofa and wrote down each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
I initially suggested that we do this because thinking of your own strengths and weaknesses is hard (though I did try it recently in a timed writing exercise). It’s especially hard when you are going through a tough time and your weaknesses list is much easier to write than your strengths list.
This exercise was also suggested by a friend of mine who had given me a bit of wise advice for the not so great time that my SO and I are going through right now; broke AF (I have -£24 in my account), depressed and anxious, conflicted about what to do with our lives (especially careers), and looking after a teething baby. We wanted to try it so that we could figure out a decent, well-thought-out plan to change our current circumstances for the better (we are still working on it).
Here are the lists that my SO wrote about me:
- Kind/selfless – put your feelings aside for the benefit of others
- Focused and very organised
- Ethical – you won’t sell yourself out even when money is desperate
- Great at writing
- Great mother
- Imaginative and creative
- You don’t take the world at face value
- Self critical
- Focus on the negatives
- Compare yourself to others
(He was very kind).
We ended up having honest and interesting conversation about how we are feeling, how we see ourselves, and a little bit of what we are going to do to try and change things (- it’s really hard to decide what to do).
It was also nice to give myself a break from reflecting about myself. I’m my own worst critic (see the above Weaknesses list) and always give myself a really hard time, especially when I see somebody else succeeding where I think I have failed (again, see above Weaknesses list).
You may not believe me but I’m actually much better than I used to be in that respect – yes I still compare myself and yes I still put myself down but I do it a lot less often. I’m not my greatest fan (yet) but I’m trying to give myself a break, and a little credit for at least getting through the days (and raising a cute baby).
I would love to be able to think about myself the way I would think about a friend. I think I’m quite a thoughtful and supportive friend to have. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we treated ourselves the way we treat the people we admire and actually like?!
Imagine having a network of people (let’s face it, by network of people I really mean ‘group chat’) that was just there for you to receive motivational compliments whenever you needed them? Doesn’t that sound amazing?!*
(Or is that just what it’s like to have a group of friends?)
Imagine reaching for your phone when you are feeling really anxious about going to an event (big or small), sending a quick ‘help!’ message and then receiving any of the following:
“Don’t worry, you got this.”
“You are smart, you are kind, you are important.”
It may only help a little but that’s better than feeling alone in your thoughts, right?
As it is the middle of #mentalhealthawarenessweek perhaps starting up a group like this (or just messaging the people you already text like a regular person), sending thoughtful messages of encouragement would be a great thing to do, whether you know if that person is going through a tough time or not.
Everybody has mental health, 1 in 4 of us have mental illness, and all of us have our own version of bad days – a kind message can go a long way, regardless of that person’s circumstances.
Let’s be each other’s allies, as well as our own.
*= Seriously, if you want to, I’m down for that.