I started out with the intention to write a light and simple post on self-kindness, but ended up with something longer and deeper than anticipated.
Self-kindness is complicated.
There's enough fluff all over the internet.
And I'm not light and fluffy.
I hope that you enjoy this post, and are able to be a little (or a lotta) kinder to yourself as a result!
I'm convinced that practicing self-kindness could solve a lot of our problems... Perhaps most of them.
The implications of being kind to ourselves are profound. It is directly related to our own well-being, health, and happiness. It is also deeply connected to how we treat others and interact with the world. It's a win-win.
What is self-kindness?
Self-kindness is how we treat ourselves - the actions we take and the things we say (or think) directed towards ourselves. It is being accepting, non-judgmental, patient, gentle, loving, caring, and supportive to oneself. It is the practice of giving yourself some grace, attending to one's needs, and being your own best friend.
And self-kindness is the opposite of judgement, punishing thoughts, condemnation, belittling, hateful thinking, scrutinizing, shaming, and demeaning oneself.
And why should we care to adopt this practice?
Because your life is a gift, and you deserve to live an exceptional life. Life can be extremely hard, and terrible things do happen, but how we treat ourselves is entirely within our control. The kinder we are towards ourselves the less we will suffer.
Self-kindness is connected to the intention behind all that we do.
Are we working out because it's good for us and we want to take care of ourselves (kindness), OR are we working out because we hate our bodies (not kindness)?
Are we eating healthy foods because we want our bodies and minds to be fueled with healing and nourishing foods so we can prevent disease, live long lives, and have lots of energy? OR are we eating healthy foods because we are scrutinizing our bodies, and have poor body-image?
Are we working towards our life goals because we believe in ourselves and want to share our unique gifts with the world? OR do we have something to prove, are hoping for recognition to feel better about ourselves, or think we are somehow inadequate?
So how can you practice self-kindness?
First we have to change our thinking. In my opinion this is where a lot of the internet falls short. There are reasons below the surface that are the root of why we are either kind or not kind towards ourselves. Those have to be addressed.
To do this, we must understand how our thoughts, feelings, and belief systems work together. All of these factors play off of each other.
- Identify your feelings - Notice and label your feelings. Stop and check in with yourself. Are you sad? anxious? angry? happy? content?
- Listen to your thoughts - What are you actually telling yourself? Our minds are constantly on the go. Frequently our thoughts come and go so quickly that we aren't even aware of them, but those thoughts play a huge role in how we feel. If we are telling ourselves things that aren't very nice, we are going to feel not very nice. Simply put: Thoughts ---> Feelings.
- Connect with your underlying belief system - Beliefs are thoughts that we have given power to by believing them to be true. These can be very complicated and deeply rooted in our self-concept. The more you can understand and identify your thoughts and feelings, the better you will get at understanding of the belief systems below the surface. For example, if you feel anxious, and you are thinking "I may fail," or "I'm going to look stupid," you may have a belief that "I'm not good enough and need the approval of others to feel good."
- Replace maladaptive beliefs with new and healthier beliefs. Once we become aware of those beliefs that are harming us we can begin to replace them with new beliefs. So, instead of "I'm not good enough and need the approval of others to feel good" replacing it with "I am worthy of my own love regardless of what anyone thinks of me."
I would hands down recommend journaling to help you through this process. Nothing fancy, you can have notes like this:
I feel: angry.
Thoughts: I should have done a better job. I should be different. Why can't I be like all of those other successful people, and less like me? I am so stupid... a total loser.
Belief: I am not good enough. I am not worthy. Other people don't have it as hard as me. I only only deserve being kind to myself when everything is going great.
New belief: I am worthy for no other reason other than being alive. I am good enough because I say so. I deserve my own love unconditionally. Write this down. Have a reminder on your phone that reminds you. Repeat it in the shower. The more you think it you will strengthen those pathways in your brain.
- You have to be motivated in order to do this work. If you truly want to feel better and live a higher quality life these beliefs must be addressed.
- Challenge your old belief systems. Look at the data. Would you think a good friend was a loser if they experienced some hardships?
- You are your own boss. You are allowed to choose which thoughts you give power to. Hear yourself telling yourself something not nice? You can dismiss it all together! You can simply notice that it's not a nice thought, and remind yourself that you aren't going to give those thoughts any validity. Come up with a new thought instead. Say it aloud.
When life throws you curve balls: This is the time when you need to be kind to yourself THE MOST, but ironically will be the time when it is the most challenging to be kind. Accept the challenge because you've got this.
If you had a friend who was going through hell, would you tell her she is a piece of garbage? Would you tell your child they're a loser and don't deserve love because they failed a something? Absolutely not. So why on earth is it okay to tell yourself that? It's not. But we do because we don't fully believe our worth.
Other practices you can do to be kind to yourself:
- Practice the idea of "do no harm." I will write more about this soon.
- Be alone. Dedicate time for you!
- Nourish your body. Eat healthy foods that energize you, drink plenty of water, and avoid too much caffeine and sugar. A car can't drive without gas. You can sorta function with crappy fuel, but in order to really think clearly, have every, and be ready to take on life, you need high quality fuel to run on.
- Sleep. Your brain cannot function or think clearly if you are sleep deprived.
- Exercise and move your body several times a week, daily preferably. Taking a walk and gentle stretching counts.
- Get outside. Be in nature and breathe. Wander where the wifi is weak.
- Engage in activities that you love. Do what brings you enjoyment as often as possible.
- Surround yourself with loving and kind people. You want to be around people who support you and contribute to your wellbeing. Wave goodbye to people who drain your energy, stress you out, or leave you feeling low.
And the most important two things:
- Practice and don't give up. It is called a practice because it is never done. You're not going to change your thought patterns and beliefs overnight. You're not going to all of a sudden not struggle with being kind towards yourself. You have to put in the work.
- Be gentle with your practice (be kind to yourself about trying to be kind to yourself!).
- This is hard for MOST people, just varying amounts.
- Seek help from a trained and licensed professional. If you are experiencing constant depression or anxiety, if you have lost all hope, or if you have the sneaking suspicion that you should talk to a professional then GO. Psychologists have years of education and training in these very issues, and will skyrocket how quickly you can feel better. Click here to find a therapist that can help you.
Do you struggle with self-kindness, or how do you practice being kind towards yourself?