Rosemary Donahue
Updated June 09, 2016
iStock / Don Bayley

When you’re in the midst of something rough, it can often feel like you’ve been treading water in a storm, and your limbs are tired with no lifeboat in sight. Personally, I’ve been through some things that I’ve thought I’d never see the end of. But it can help to have some personal mantras that you repeat to yourself over and over to signal to your brain that you’ve been through this before, you’ve seen better times, and you will again. Here are a few of mine, feel free to use them verbatim for yourself or use them as a guide to make your own:

“No one can take care of me like I can take care of myself.”

I use this one when I’m feeling either like I’ve been too needy, or like people in my life don’t have time for me or haven’t been reciprocating the care that I’ve given them. I also use it to remind myself that I’m strong and a good caretaker, even if it doesn’t feel that way. It’s scary, at times, but it reminds me that we’re all somewhat on our own — it enables me to say no to things I don’t want to do when it feels like others are asking too much of me, and conserve energy for myself. It also reminds me that I have the power to take care of myself if I truly listen to what I need.

“I’ve made it through every bad day I’ve ever had before.”

I tell myself this on catastrophic, mind-numbing bad days. There has never been a bad day that I haven’t survived, and I’ve always lived to tell the tale — they’ve all made me stronger, and many of them have even taught me valuable lessons about who I want to be, and how I want to do things better in the future. It’s my own variation on “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

“I never have to see these people again.”

While I don’t condone acting like an idiot in a public place just for the sake of it, this is my way of calming my fears of being an *embarrassing person* when I need to cry on the subway or while I’m walking home from dropping my brother off at the train when I know I won’t see him for a while. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with crying in public, especially in a city like New York, and I have long gotten over the embarrassment factor by telling myself that I will likely never see any of these people again — and even if we do cross paths, it’s unlikely they’ll remember I was the girl crying into my pizza on Broadway.

“I can only be responsible for what I’m feeling.”

I used to try to make other people understand my point of view until I was blue in the face. I’d tell them over and over what I meant, and try to clear up misunderstandings, and it would honestly just go on and on until we were both exhausted. It was partially because I was so desperate to be liked, and partially because I never wanted anyone else to feel bad on my account. I’ve learned, as I’ve gotten older, that to some extent, I’m only responsible for what I’m feeling — as long as I’ve communicated my feelings and listened to other people, and not done or said anything with irresponsible or malicious intent, I can’t worry so much about what other people think. This isn’t a way to do things without taking responsibility, but it is a way to stop worrying so much if other people just don’t *get* or like me. That’s just how things work sometimes, and that’s okay.

“My body is here for a lot more than aesthetics.”

This one has taken me the most time to truly believe, and that might be why it’s the most important for me to constantly say. We hear and see so many different messages every day about what our bodies are supposedly for that we often forget what they DO for us. They are the reason we exist; they help us move around, communicate with each other, and just BE. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating and body image issues for my whole life, it’s easy to forget all the good things about my body — sometimes, I just think about how I look, and it doesn’t lead me down a happy road — but reminding myself that aesthetics are not the sole, or even most important, purpose of my body is an important thing to do.