While I was at home over the holidays, I spent one evening thumbing through old family albums. As my sisters and I often do, we each selected a few of our favourite photos from our respective baby books.

I recently read an article that discussed the twenty-something woman’s tendency to berate herself on a daily basis. I don’t recall where I found this article as I wasn’t overly concerned with the statistics or validity surrounding this claim, but I know it’s true. We’re all too quick to replay conversations that went awry, condemn our bodies, and agonize about our careers (or lack thereof). This sort of self-deprecating rhetoric is all-too-common. FML has become the new full stop to end our sentences, as we jokingly make these underhanded comments about our lives.

We live in a society that measures success based on a handful of weighty milestones, yet keeping up with the Joneses is near impossible in our recovering economy and inflated housing market. This constant benchmarking against our peers, previous generations, and what we see in conventional and social media leads to mounting levels of stress and anxiety.

Looking at this photo of myself as a toddler brought up¬†an unfamiliar sense of empathy. I was reminded of a long forgotten innocence we all once possessed. Any feelings of inadequacy and stress were somehow absolved by looking at my carefree, infant self. We all need to be much kinder to ourselves. On a personal level, of course, but collectively as well. Condemning ourselves for our imperfections won’t change them, at least not without serious repercussions.

Instead, I started thinking, “I need to treat myself how I’d treat a small child, a younger me.” Would I ever mockingly compare the failings of her aspirations? No, I’d love her unconditionally, and that’s how I resolve to treat myself going forward. It’s a lesson that’s applicable for anyone who is feeling inadequate or self-conscious.

Along with the following list of things you can do instead of getting worked up, find an old photo of yourself and remember that it was taken not too long ago:

1. If you’re tired, don’t press on, take a nap.

2. Feed yourself healthy, wholesome food. Make yourself delicious meals that will give you energy and make you feel good.

3. Allow yourself time to play.

4. Engage in activities that feed your soul. There’s a reason over 95% of my female friends were enrolled in ballet at the age of four, and it’s not because our parents’ thought we’d start obsessing about how we looked in a leotard by the age of twelve.

5. If you fall down, (literally or figuratively) take it easy for a day or two.

6. Surround yourself with people who support you. The greatest people you will ever meet will reassure and console you when you’re feeling sad. And they will cheer you on throughout your many pursuits.

7. When do children start looking in mirrors? From a young age, we’re fascinated with our reflection, but when does this fascination take a critical turn? Begin appreciating everything your body does for you, it’s a complex organism. If you’re lucky, you can walk, run and dance. To quote the famous Sunscreen speech, “Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can, don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”

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