By Jordan McNeil
Last week I sat down with Mary Beth Earnheardt to interview her about her debut novel, and we ended up chatting for a good while about life afterwards. One thing she told me repeatedly as I went on about my first semester in grad school so far was “You need to be kind to yourself,” and I haven’t really been able to get it out of my head since.
The advice was in response to any time I mentioned something I felt inadequate at — interviewing her, for example. Anyone who knows me pretty well, or follows me actively on social media, knows that I tend to be a pessimist, that I have a propensity to complain and be my own worst critic. I’ve been OK with that; it’s part of who I am. But I still couldn’t get it out of my mind: “Be kind to yourself.”
With midterms either coming up or currently happening, this seems like apt and timely advice. There are many ways to be kind to yourself, there are varying degrees. It can be something small and simple to improve your day: indulging in a favorite snack, cuddling with baby goats or some other pet, taking time to read a new book or watch a new show. These can definitely be good stress relievers to break up the hours spent studying for midterms.
On a larger scale, self-kindness can come from how you treat yourself in the areas you feel the least comfortable with or inadequate at. Instead of saying “Well, I’m just not that good at statistics/biology/financial accounting, so this test is going to be horrible,” you can see it as a new challenge to confront something that may scare you and give you an opportunity to grow.
This was another bit of advice Mary Beth gave me during our talk last week. Another part that has stuck with me. The act of writing her upcoming novel was something a little out of her comfort zone, a challenge she wanted to see if she could do. Publishing it was something that scared her a little, but instead of just saying “Well, I’m no good at this, it’s probably not going to happen,” she took the challenge to take advantage of an opportunity to grow. She was kind to herself.
Midterms can definitely be stressful — I am most certainly already there with a few of my classes this semester. But that just makes it all that more important to take care of ourselves. Buy yourself a donut, take a breather with your favorite fictional character, be your own loudest cheerleader.
Be kind to you.