By Julia Di Simone
If you’ve ever been to a great therapy session, you know that though your therapist is there to guide you, you actually end up doing most of the heavy lifting. A good therapist isn’t there to dole out advice but instead to help you come to your own conclusions. This understanding is empowering because it helps us realize that all we need is some quiet space of mind to get some good self-therapy in. If you’re feeling a little lost right now, pull out pen and paper, open up your laptop or turn on your phone’s voice recorder.
Ask yourself: how was my first week of classes? What am I worried about? How’s my relationship with my roommate? Take the time to jot down some of the loudest thoughts bouncing around your head.
Self-reflection exercises like these are helpful because a day at school can mean a day solely focused on being as productive as possible and likely no time thinking about your own identity and personhood. The exercise of being a student can convince us to ignore our humanity and the emotional parts of ourselves. When I feel I’m losing myself in the role of being a student, I like to ask myself: what’s something that reminds me of how incredible life is? What activities light me up and make me grateful I’m alive to experience them?
When was the last time you thought about these questions? When was the last time you acted on one of these answers and spent your Saturday at Zena with Farm Club, or played catch with a friend at Bush Park or volunteered with the Community Service Learning Office?
I have spent many a semester with my head down, my eyes seemingly on my laptop screen all waking hours of the day, forgetting to think about why I’m excited to be here at Willamette. I have lost sight of the unique and awesome things about my own personality for months at a time, and not spent time with close friends or read a book for fun until my last final was over. Taking frequent moments for self-reflection helps remind me that my feelings matter. I am not a robot whose worth is determined by how many assignments I can crank out in a day.
Checking in with yourself —whether in a thought while in line at Goudy or in a journal before bed — stands as a reminder that your internal well-being is important to you. Even just thinking about these self-reflection questions can help you remember that you matter and that you deserve care and kind thoughts. Know that you don’t actively have to do anything about these questions to feel the benefits. This doesn’t have to become a new to-do list. Just cultivating an awareness of how you’re feeling and how your semester is going is all you need to do. Giving yourself these moments of self-love goes a long way.
Conscious self-love exercises like these can feel a little uncomfortable when we’re not used to them. Though when other people show us love, we cherish it. It feels so special to be cared about and what’s amazing is that we have the capacity to feel that way any time, just by showing ourselves a moment of self-love.
To prove to yourself that this works, think about it this way: imagine in your mind a friend or acquaintance you see every now and again whom you admire. This is someone you’d be excited to get to know better if you were in a group project together. Imagine you’re walking to class, it’s raining, and you’re honestly feeling kind of down. Then that person, as they walk by, takes a moment to check in with you. Maybe they offer you a hug or a smile as they continue on, or ask you, “Hey, good to see you! What’s going on?”
Think of how sweet it would feel to be seen in that moment, not judged and just appreciated by someone. That’s what we do for ourselves when we take an ounce of mental energy to check in and show ourselves some love.