Words: Tanya Smale
Sarah Powell adopted self-celebration as a way to silence her inner-critic and love herself more
“I was around 15 when my negative self-talk started. It began as low level performance anxiety because I wanted people to like me. I’d pick over conversations or interactions and wonder, ‘Did I came across okay?’ After studying drama and theatre studies at Aberystwyth University in Wales, I landed my dream job, a daytime show on Heat Radio. Working in media is very competitive, which fuelled my inner critic, who said things like, ‘I’m useless’ or, ‘they hated me’. So I turned to meditation and mindfulness to try to handle my anxiety, which helped, but the inner critic was still there, waiting to judge. “When I lost my radio show, it was a big shock, and at first I noticed the mean voice stepping in with judgemental thoughts. I could’ve said, ‘What a catastrophic fail, how embarrassing!’ and retreated towards that negative space within myself, but instead I listened carefully and realised I had another supportive, compassionate voice which had a lot to say too. Something clicked into place for me when I realised it was my choice which one I listened to. The mean voice had run the show for a long time. It was about time I tried tuning into the kind voice instead, which I now refer to as my ‘celebration voice’.
Honour the tiny wins
“I realised it wasn’t what had happened, but how I dealt with it that made the difference to how I was feeling. This was something that could help me override my inner critic that I could do anytime, anywhere. So if I was late for a meeting, I tuned into, ‘At least I remembered my travel card,’ instead of, ‘You’re always late, how are you ever going to prove yourself?’ as my mean voice would have said. It sounds simple, but the realisation was very profound. “It is weird when you first start doing it, especially if that mean voice has been in the driving seat for a long time, but it’s the small changes that make all the difference. You just have to commit to celebrating yourself a little bit more than you are right now and you can’t go wrong. “There are a lot of misconceptions and blocks around self-celebration and it’s been given a bad reputation because we’re told, ‘Don’t get full of yourself,’and, ‘Nobody likes a show off’. We’re also taught you have to earn a celebration by having a big life event but, if I’ve got to get married, give birth or die to have a celebration, that’s not enough for me. It’s about honouring the tiny wins and really marking them.
Find your own loving voice
“We know self-love and self-care are important, but it can be hard to know what that looks like for you and how to access it. Everybody’s celebrations will look different and change on a daily basis. We’re all a work-in-progress and constantly shifting along with the world around us. There are those times when we’re invincible and fly through the to-do list and those when just getting up is hard. There’s always positivity to be found in any situation. It’s tuning into: ‘What went well?” rather than getting stuck into those moments of criticism, and really honouring those small accomplishments that are allowed to flit by, like, ‘I did the washing up before I left the house,’ or ‘I had a nice conversation today,’ or even, ‘I washed my hair this morning’. “We’re practical people and don’t necessarily have time to go on many retreats, so regular self-celebration is a tool that you can carry with you, so you’re able to celebrate whatever that day looks like for you. You can do it on the loo or a train, in a queue, watching telly or eating your lunch and it can be something you do throughout the day, before bed or some people write their thoughts down in a journal or on their phone. We’re all busy and it’s easy to say, ‘I don’t have time for self-care or self-love,’ but it’s about creating those moments where you can. “With self-celebration, I feel calmer, have more clarity and it’s put me back in control. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if you’ve got a busy job or social life or a family. By creating that tiny bit of space, we allow kindness and compassion to rush in for ourselves which is going to show up in every area of our lives and have a huge impact. If you want to take the self-celebration further, tune into that little voice that’s been hiding behind self doubt. We’re so worried about being too big for our boots but it’s not about that, it’s about empowering yourself to be your own best friend, and everyone deserves to like themselves. You can never celebrate yourself too much. In fact, it’s only going to enrich what you do for other people.”
Sarah’s top tips for self-celebration
1 Know that whatever is happening, you are doing your best. You’re a work in progress and you aren’t expected to have mastered everything right now.
2 Accept yourself, exactly as you are right now.
3 Celebrate three tiny wins from today, no matter how small. The smaller celebrations often are the best ones.
4 Place self-compassion above criticism. Showing yourself kindness is the greatest act of self-love there is.
5 Know your worth and show up for it. Say no if you need to, ask for help if you want it and don’t save anything ‘for best’, because you’re worth it now.