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How to Feel Good About Yourself When You Don’t

I recently asked my friends, my internet friends that is–who asks their real life friends for advice these days?–what they do to make themselves feel good when they simply don’t.  Maintaining a positive self image is rough in a world in which we’re bombarded with eat this, do that, tan, don’t tan, have you tried Pilates?, eat dark chocolate, make dark chocolate face masks, wash your hair, don’t wash your hair, a lot of shampoos give you cancer, no seriously have you tried Pilates?,  you should eat better, don’t you find it oppressive that you’re the only person in your house that cooks?, I can’t believe you still do Pilates, you should really try cross training. You all know how it is. You live it every day.

And some days your apartment management company takes five goddamn hours to clear the snow from the lot before you can put your car back in, and you’re pretty sure you won’t get a call back for a job you applied for that you could do in your sleep, and no one on your Facebook is talking about the protests in Egypt and for some reason that makes you want to punch a hole in a wall. Wait”¦ are we talking about something other than my day? Right. Okay, then.

The most popular suggestion was to dress up in some way. Whether it’s putting on their favorite jewelry–all of it–or dressing up for the opera, doing up their hair, putting on fancy makeup, or giving themselves mani/pedis, a good portion of the (mostly) ladies polled said they had special feel-good dress-up attire. Another popular option was to dress down. Sweater, slippers, cashmere leggings. Comfy clothes. Once in their feel-good outfit, what people do is variable. Some people have private dance parties, or sit in their cars playing music. Other people cuddle with cats, make a special meal, or order in. Comforts: clothes you love, pets, favorite books and movies, favorite foods, and special places were understandably the go to items for a craptastic day.

Another vocal segment said that the best thing they can do to make themselves feel better is to get up and go. Many go for a run or to the gym, go on a cleaning spree, or get out of the house and accomplish something on their to-do list.

In the Say What You’re Really Thinking camp were two of my favorite suggestions: “Delusion and denial,” and, “Put other people down.” Okay, so these might not be the Dr. Phil approved methods for coping on the days when you feel like dirt, but there is something to be said for faking it until you make it. I find that sometimes, even on days like today when my brain is screaming, “EVERYTHING IS RUINED FOREVER,” just going about my day as if it isn’t will eventually lead me to something that puts me in a better mood. As far as putting other people down goes, again, maybe not the very best, but I don’t see anything wrong with going on Go Fug Yourself and saying, “Oh, Phoebe Price, you hunka hunka flaming desperation.” Do what you have to do without hurting anyone else.

A special note about days like today, specifically, in which the world is out of whack and you feel like nothing you do is helping (again we’re not so secretly talking about me here): remember that there are little things you can do that don’t require a whole lot of effort, but might make a difference. Sign an Amnesty International petition, or shoot off a quick email to your representatives in Congress about an issue you care about. Sure, it’s a drop in the bucket, but it will give you a reason to say, “I did something good today.”

It’s important to note that while everyone has bad days and occasional bouts with low self image, when the bad days outnumber the good and none of your usual fixes are working, it might be time to look to a professional for guidance. Constant negative tapes running through your head or anxiety about your daily activities is potentially a sign of something larger at play.

Personally, I find that the most effective way to fix a day gone horribly, irrevocably wrong is to crawl into bed and try to sleep it off. Nine times out of ten, the morning looks better. At least until you have to get up and move your car for the world’s slowest snowplows.

How about you? What is it that helps you feel better when you’re at your worst?

By (e)Kelsium

Kelsium lives in Southern California with her partner and collection of almost (almost!) kill-proof plants. She enjoys the beaches, but finds the lack of acceptable bagels distressing. She considers herself an expert in red lipstick and internet rage.

8 replies on “How to Feel Good About Yourself When You Don’t”

If I’m just having a craptacular time or low level depression, it helps me to sing, read a good book, eat something tasty, go out somewhere (like to stare at things in antique stores), watch a show I’ve watched before (usually it’s Buffy). Sometimes I also go on a baking kick — once I baked an apple tart and three different kinds of cookies in one day.
If I’m pretty severly depressed, playing point and click games like Submachine or Machinarium helps a lot because I kind of space out into the world of the game and focus on solving puzzles. Also, organizing computer folders, and if all else fails, just taking some sleeping pills and passing out.

Oh, also! If the crapness of your day is often influenced by seeing other people not give a flying fig (or a fuck, but the idea of flying figs is strangely cute) about misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc., as it sometimes is for me, it’s a good idea to seek out someone, whether in real life or online, that you could rant to/together with. It can only be more enraging to talk to such and such friend of yours about this shitty phenomenon in our culture if they look very lukewarm the whole time and nod uncomfortably, but when you have someone getting pissed with you and interjecting with “oh, blah blah, example of this phenomenon and how much it sucks!” it can make you feel a lot better and less alone in caring.

I sing. Really really loudly. Showtunes are very satisfying because they take a little effort. One of my favorite albums is “Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies Are a Drag” because every song is a punk rock cover of a classic showtune. Blasting through “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” loud and fast will take your mind off of almost anything

YES. Love that you acknowledged the “put other people down” solution. When I’m feeling crappy, I have a list of Do’s and Don’ts:

DO: cook something delicious to eat, go somewhere for a nice meal (and nice can even be fast food if you feel like it), write something, read something, do something with hair/makeup/non-lounging clothes, talk to a friend/my spouse, go for a walk.

DON’T: watch TV or succumb to mindless internet surfing- I don’t know why but vegging out makes me feel even worse when I’m already down.

I’m just the opposite: I tend to over think things, so sometimes the best thing for me to do is find something on television that requires the least amount of brainpower. Re-runs of America’s Next Top Model or Bad Girls Club work splendidly.

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