The problem of “be kind to yourself”

“Be kind to yourself”. As soon as any therapist I’ve ever seen has uttered those four words (sometimes substituting “kind to” for “gentle with”), I’ve known that our relationship will not work out.

I understand the sentiment. I know I am a harsh self-critic, I know I linger on the negatives and on the failures but I also know that I am more often than not, undeserving of the self-empathy I am urged to adopt.

Firstly, it is inarguable how pathetic depression has rendered me. Panic attacks caused by nothing or things so small that even here, anonymously, I cannot bring myself to admit to them. It is ridiculous to suggest that I should be anything but angry and irritated with myself when I can spend days in bed. I am filled with thoughts of making a difference, of philanthropy, and yet I can’t even crawl out from under the covers and make myself a proper meal so it is not beyond the realms of understanding that I should feel worthless. How to be a good citizen when watching entire TV series in one day?

And while the paranoia is undeniable, without doubt I have driven people away with my misery and attention-seeking need for help, with my self-imposed isolation and lack of reliability. The tension of never knowing whether the person you’ve met for a drink or a meal is suddenly going to start crying exhausts even the best people eventually and then, for their own sanity they quietly back away. It’s difficult to “be kind” to myself when I’ve caused people pain and inconvenience and pressure and boredom, when I’ve caused the loneliness that affects and hinders me so much.

I am too pathetic to make and follow up on doctor’s appointments, job interviews, days out with friends. I have become defined by an invisible illness. It has beaten me. It has wound its way around me and pulls me down, constricting me, refusing to allow me to move upwards or forwards and I have become a timid ghost, attempting transparency as I float quietly by hoping not to be noticed, longing for it all to end.

So, I don’t want to be on the receiving end of empty therapy phrases. “Be kind to yourself” doesn’t help me any more than “pull yourself together” does. Unfortunately, as yet, I haven’t figured out what does help.

Image result for frustration art



2 thoughts on “The problem of “be kind to yourself”

  1. You make a lot of interesting points here. Though I don’t agree that your illness has made you pathetic.I’d say that it’s entirely understandable to get frustrated at yourself. I do that a fair bit. But I often try to remind myself that I have an illness and it’s not a reflection on me as a person.

    So instead of thinking ‘I hate myself’ I instead try to think ‘ I am not feeling well today and that’s okay’. I don’t always succeed, but it’s helped remind me that what I have is an illness I did not ask for, not a reflection of my character.

    Anyway I hope none of this has come across as too preachy. It’s just my experience of mental illness and how I try to live with it 🙂


    1. Thanks for your kind comments – you don’t come across as preachy at all 🙂 On my good days, I recognise that I am being harsh on myself by calling myself pathetic (I certainly don’t think that of anyone else I know with depression/anxiety or any other mental illness) but the feeling of being pathetic, being worthless, being useless is completely real during the bad times. And there is an element of truth in it when I can’t do simple things and when I’m fearful of silly basic things. But you are right, it is the illness, not me. Maybe I should think of depression as pathetic and not me 🙂


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