“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
But It’s not always easy to remember to treat OURSELVES kindly.
When we’re just not feeling our best, it’s not always easy to remember to be kind to others, let alone ourselves. But it’s precisely on those days that we need to make time for a little self-love.
Picture your best friend, partner, parent or child in despair. Maybe they made a mistake at work. Maybe they got very little sleep. Maybe they’re struggling with sadness or heartbreak. Whatever the cause, they’re not in a good place. What do you do?
Innately, it’s human nature to help others. You’d want to hug them, let them know you’re there for them. You’d listen and empathize. You would let them know everything is going to be alright.
But how would you react if the person hurting were YOU? Would you acknowledge your pain and use it to figure out how to help yourself? Would you be just as kind and empathetic as you would be with your loved ones?
Because this is what self-kindness looks like.
Self-kindness is taking all those actions, all those reactions and applying them to yourself just as readily as you offer them to others. It’s about acknowledging the difficulty of a situation, recognizing your efforts and soothing yourself.
When we embrace self-kindness, we want to offer ourselves better care. We get more sleep, offer our bodies more of the nutrients that it needs, we recognise some or most of our bad habits and do what we need to remedy them.
Why Self-Kindness Is So Important
Self-kindness also leads to self-acceptance and greater satisfaction. When we lose our urgent need to belittle ourselves, we open ourselves up to a more expansive way to experience life. A more creative and fulfilling life.
For most of us, it is natural to think that self-kindness is selfish or self-indulgent. I know I used to. But self-kindness is essential for everybody. It helps us give more and be kinder to others. It sustains our emotional reserve, so it doesn’t empty out so quickly.
How To Be Kinder to Yourself
My first goal in learning how to be kind to myself was to rid myself of any preconceived or judgmental notions about what kindness should look like.
Kindness will look very different from person to person.
Here are some tips I use when feelings of self-criticism start taking hold.
- Get Back To Basics
I ensure my basic needs are met. Nourishing myself with delicious food, drinking enough water, moving my body, getting enough sleep and checking in with those who love me. Taking care of these needs allows me to bring energy and light to my life and are the foundation to my self-love practice.
- Pay Attention To Internal Dialogue
I always knew I spoke negatively to myself, but it wasn’t until I started paying careful attention to WHAT I say and HOW I say it; and then took the time to re-frame what I was saying into something more positive, supportive, and helpful that my happiness started increasing. At first it felt unnatural, uncomfortable and like I was telling myself big fat lies. But I kept at it because I KNEW the difference it would ultimately make.
You are learning a new language here and practicing positive self-talk will help you become fluent in the language of self-love.
- Feel My Feelings
One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is to give myself permission to experience my emotions without punishing myself. It is important to show ourselves kindness by feeling the full breadth of our emotions, without attaching judgment, guilt or hate for ourselves over the top.
(Here are strategies to feel your feelings healthfully)
- Re-Frame Challenges
Many people equate a challenge with failure. And I’m no different. We worry that a less-than-perfect performance diminishes our worth. But, as there’s no such thing as perfect, imperfection cannot exist either. So learn to take a neutral stance. Re-frame your challenge as information and a chance to learn and grow.
By neutralizing what we feel so negatively about, we can increase our capacity for self-kindness. When we run into a challenge, we are not learning that we suck at something. We are actually learning that a particular task is lower on our list of talents than some other things, adding that with this neutral information, you can then decide how you’d like to proceed.
- Find Solutions
Instead of being so hard on yourself for facing a challenge, become a solution sluth. After you have acknowledged the difficulty of the situation that you are in, choose a solution based on the information and skills you have at the time, and move toward it.
- Lower Your Expectations
Should is one word I have literally cut out of my vocabulary. “Shoulds”, when you’re heading into potentially stressful or overwhelming situations lower our chance of being able to tolerate experiences that don’t turn out the way that we’d like or think they should.
- Take An Afternoon Nap
Oh the virtues of regular napping. When working from home, I often have no choice but to take a nap in the day, barely able to keep my eyes open when 3pm strikes. But even if I don’t really need a nap, there is nothing more nourishing to the soul than an afternoon nap in the sunlight that is streaming in through my bedroom window.
Those 10 or 15 minutes that serves as time out just for you. I used to feel guilty when I first started taking my naps, but now they are one of the most cherished parts of my day, and help me be more productive, happier and relaxed.
- Go For A Walk
Walking is a great creative energiser. Some days you might not have the time or energy to hit the gym or go for a long walk, but even a short stroll can really help recharge the creative batteries.
- Just Be
We need to understand that we are human-beings, not human-doings. Taking time out of the busyness of everyday life to just be is good medicine for the body and soul. By disconnecting from the influx of social media updates, the steady stream of emails and instant text-messaging communication, we can recharge naturally away from the buzz of the electronic world.
The best thing is, we don’t actually need to do anything – so put down the books, turn off the guided relaxation music, and just feel content with just being where you are, in this very moment. This is another practice that when I first started, made me feel super guilty for doing – but now it’s one of my most favourite and rewarding things to do.
- Trust The Process
Sometimes we push too hard to make things happen.
Trust that where you are right now is exactly where you are supposed to be. Learn that life becomes much easier when you stop fighting against the resistance of your own limitations, just relax, and go with the flow.
- Be Open To Change
We all know that nothing stays the same forever. However, problems arise when we become attached to the way things are.
Accept that life is a series of ever-changing events and situations. And new opportunities will present themselves to you from time to time. The end of your job in one company simply means the beginning of a brand new set of life experiences waiting for you in another.
Embrace uncertainty by switching off the worrying mind, replacing the prospect of the unknown with positive anticipation.
- Be Kind
Emotions that are cultivated in the mind often manifest themselves somewhere on the human body. A dull ache in the stomach can translate to a gut full of worries. Similarly, a sore throat may relate to communication and self-expression issues.
By becoming aware of the sensations in your body and allowing them to reach their full expression, you can learn to send kindness the physical problem. This, in turn, brings a sense of clarity and calmness into your mental world.
Moreover, if we take good care of our bodies through gentle exercise, nutritious food choices, massage, or just having a long relaxing soak in the bath, our minds will become less chaotic and more of a comfortable pleasant place to stay.
- Start Now
You might find it tough to figure out when or how to start being kinder to yourself, especially because it can seem like a nebulous concept or too big a mountain to climb. But start right now by tuning into your body.
How do you feel? What do you need? How might you work, in this moment, to move forward with your best interest at heart? You, better than anyone else, will know how to best show yourself the kindness that you’re yearning for.
Embracing The Practice of Self-Kindness
Being gentle with yourself may not come naturally. But anything worthwhile often takes some work.
If you want a life that feels pleasurable and purposeful, is fueled by passion and isn’t ridden with fear; one of the most important steps you can take is embracing the idea of self-kindness.
Being kind to yourself in everyday life is in in my experience one of the best things you can do for yourself. Life will become lighter and your relationships will most likely improve. Don’t be fooled in thinking I have this self-kindness thing all worked out though. It is a daily challenge, but one that is strengthened with daily practice. Just as you train your body, you must train your mind to run this adventure that we call life.
You will feel happier overall. And your self-esteem and your sense of deserving good things in life will go up. To make a positive change with that simply start a new habit today. One of kindness and love towards yourself.
I’d love for you to share with me, how do you practice self-kindness?