Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. You can show kindness to people you know or complete strangers. Kindness is flexible within all situations and doesn’t discriminate against who it can be offered to. In an instant you can easily make someone’s day. I love kindness!
There are so many ways to show kindness to others – a warm smile, an offer of help, the giving of a compliment. The list is endless. It’s second nature to so many of us to act this way towards other people. But… how often do we extend those behaviours to ourselves? How easy is it for you to accept a compliment? To take someone up on an offer help? To allow yourself in to situations that make you smile?
Without necessarily realising it, you might not be acting very kindly to yourself. The sad truth is, far too many of us could be described as lacking in this area.
This was highlighted to me in one of my recent mindfulness practice groups. We were asked to say aloud ways in which we can be more kind to ourselves. We had to list as many ways as possible for 2 minutes. Sound easy? It wasn’t! Everybody struggled.
Part of the issue is our perception of what being kind to ourselves actually involves. We often attribute an act of kindness towards ourselves as a physical act. Activities such as relaxing in a warm bath, taking a break, indulging yourself with a box of chocolates. As great as these are for a quick boost, there are so many other deeper ways to display kindness. And if acted upon with regularity we would stand to benefit more greatly.
Exploring more deeply, we can be kind through accepting ourselves, loosening our own criticism and negative judgement. Allowing ourselves to say no to something if it doesn’t feel right for us. Giving ourselves permission to seek help if we need it or showing patience if we fail at something.
Whilst it may sound like perfect sense, why are these the opportunities that we often overlook when thinking about how we can be kind to ourselves? I’m pretty sure that we readily display kindness to others in this manner – in fact we’re more likely to show kindness in this way. When was the last time you ran a warm bath for a friend who was feeling down? (Well maybe you did, you’re a great friend, but you get my point.)
There are around 39 synonyms for kindness – words such as affection, gentleness, warmth, concern and care. At least 39 different ways to demonstrate kindness to ourselves. There really is no reason why we can’t actively apply at least a few of them when dealing with our own needs.
So why don’t we? Why do so many of us struggle with it?
Perhaps the reality is we’ve subconsciously been taught acting in this way is actually a negative behaviour. We feel our act of kindness will be seen as weakness, but it’s not weak to be kind, it requires courage and strength. It can be viewed as indulgent, but it’s not indulgent to invest in our own mental and physical wellbeing – it’s mandatory. It can be considered selfish, but if you consistently put the needs of others before your own it will be your unravelling. When have you ever heard during a plane safety briefing, put on everyone else’s mask before you put on your own? You don’t. The instruction is to put your own mask on first. You can’t help others when you’re passed out on the floor!
Far from being a selfish act, practicing kindness towards yourself will increase your capacity and desire to practice it towards others. A securely built base within will only serve to strengthen and improve your relationships, increase the positivity of your encounters and better your life experience as a whole.
Perhaps it’s time to adapt our thinking and the way we act?
Have you heard the advice – treat others how you would like to be treated? This is good advice. But perhaps we can tweak it slightly:
Treat yourself how you treat others.
From today, always remember to question: ‘Am I showing myself the same kindness that I extend to others?’ ‘How could I be more kind to myself?’ And once you know the answer – be kind and act on it!
I like to practice what I ‘preach’ and I’ve actively started practicing kindness towards myself. I’ve talked about one of my first steps here: Identity Crisis: The Importance of Being You
OK, so now for a little challenge. Set yourself a 2-minute timer. Ask yourself the question – how can I be more kind to myself? See how many ways you can come up with and then start to try and implement them within your daily life. If it helps to get you thinking, click here for words often associated with kindness – I’d love to know how you get on and any great ways in which you display kindness to yourself. Get in touch by leaving a comment below.
You might also like to read: Stopping Self-Sabotage – a Journey to Break the Habit.