Today is World Kindness Day. Ellen usually signs off her show telling her viewers to be kind to one another. I do not need to reiterate the importance of that. What I would like to touch on today is one aspect of kindness that is easily overlooked. Being kind to yourself.
Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.
That quote by the late Tibetan lama Thubten Yeshe should be the easiest thing yet it often proves difficult. From a young age we are encouraged to put others first. We are conditioned to think that putting yourself first is selfish. In a lot of ways it is, but not in all ways.
Treat others the way you want to be treated. We all know that. But how about treating ourselves the way we treat others? We tend to be kinder with our words and actions to our loved ones than we are to ourselves.
Imagine if your friend came to you heartbroken that the person they recently started dating has ended things. Would you say to them “well you have really packed on the pounds of late so no surprise he is no longer attracted to you.” Of course not. You would not have any friends if you did. It is more likely you would assure your friend that said person is a loser who does not deserve him/her. So why is it so easy to say such hurtful things to ourselves?
How you feel about yourself translates to how you make others feel. True happiness comes from within. If someone seems happy but mostly has the effect of making others feel bad, that happiness is not genuine. I know a girl who at first glance seems happy. She calls herself a social butterfly, always telling stories and laughs often and loudly. But when you look closely, you will see that her happiness is not genuine. Her sadness is in the chaos she brings wherever she goes, like a tornado hell-bent on destroying everything in its path. It is in the constant fights she has in the office with everyone from the manager to the tea girl. It is in the relationships, romantic or otherwise, she cannot maintain. It is in the alcohol she does not know when to stop drinking once she starts.
In my experience, if you do not love yourself first it is harder to truly love others. Here are some things I do to be kinder to myself, build self-compassion and self-love. Obviously I am no expert, but these work for me and hopefully you may pick up a method or two.
- Create some quality me-time every day. Take time out of the day to tune into yourself. Be deliberate with this. Get to know what it is that you are feeling. Pay attention to where you are hurting. For me I carry my hurt in my heart. So when I am feeling sad I place my hand on my heart and speak kind, loving words to myself. Or I just cry. But I allow myself to feel what I am really feeling.
- Listen to your inner advocate, not just your inner critic. Your inner critic can be a real asshole sometimes. No matter what you do, it will never be good enough for your inner critic. So tune that negative Nancy out and pay more attention to your inner advocate. Reaffirm yourself the way you so easily reaffirm your loved ones. You are enough. You are worthy. Just the way you are.
- Recognise your achievements. Society tends to frown on us acknowledging and celebrating our achievements. It is considered arrogant when we brag about our accomplishments. Yet there is something beautiful about being your own cheerleader. No one is saying you need to shout the many ways you kick major ass from the top of a mountain. But the same way you chastise yourself for failing is the same way you should celebrate when you succeed.
- Forgive yourself. We forgive others easier than we forgive ourselves. I think it is because they do not live in our heads, where we tend to berate ourselves over and over for our mistakes. But it is important to learn to forgive yourself as easily as you forgive others, for both the trivial and the weighty things. Right now I am currently working on forgiving myself for the many times I was not nice to my mum. It is not easy because I cannot apologise to her in person, but I have to try otherwise my grief will swallow me whole.
- Treat yourself. With or without reason. Just because you can. There is no need to wait for others when you can treat yo’ damn self instead. I celebrate everything, big or small, so I am at ease with this point. However, I had to review this recently in line with the health goals I have set for myself. I usually go to dinner and have a glass or three of wine to celebrate. Which is fine from time to time, but not all the time. I had to reevaluate this and now I choose to primarily reward myself with a book. This is a win-win for me as I love books and they are cheaper than dinner with a few glasses of wine.
I will say it again, I am no expert on this subject. But I truly believe the source of our kindness will only be more authentic when we are able to show kindness to ourselves first.