So, last night I was having a wee pity party. Just feeling generally down and discouraged. Then I received the following on my FB wall:
“As your new year begins, you are aware of the possibilities and all your goals and dreams for what is to come. Old habits may resurface briefly as a resistance to change, but be kind to yourself in those moments then bravely move forward into your wonderful new year.”
Of all the kind words and lovely greetings I received today, this one meant the most to me. I needed that reminder to be kind to yourself. This same person recently told me that he thinks I’m a very kind person. And, I suppose it’s true. I do kind things for people; this is how I was raised, it’s just what you do. Like when someone is in pain, sick or injured and can’t get to the store to get some pain relief, you take it to them. Or when a friend is sad, you call them up to say hi. These are just kind things you do. Being kind to others feels good, and it’s good for the soul.
But you know what? I’m willing to guess that a lot of people are kinder to strangers than they are to themselves.
If a friend of mine were to do something to upset or offend me, I’d forgive her. I’m kind to complete strangers: letting someone merge ahead of me in traffic; holding doors open; even just smiling at a complete strangers. I bet you can think of at least one instance in the last 24 hours in which you were kind to someone. If not, shame on you. Don’t be such a grinch, go do something kind, now!
But how many of us are that kind to ourselves? How many of us treat ourselves with loving kindness when we mess up, or are hurt or feeling down? I know I’m not.
And that’s where the pity party last night came from. I haven’t been taking care of myself, and, rather than being kind, I was really hard on myself. The thing is, if someone you knew was consistently not kind to you, you wouldn’t hang around them. You’d, in fact, most likely distance yourself from them. Unfortunately, you can’t distance yourself from, well, yourself.
It’s easy to look for the good in others and respect their journey. Why is it so hard to treat ourselves the same way?
I’m wondering if it has something to do with fear. Every time I’m “stuck” in my life, it seems it’s because of fear. And then, once I face those fears, I am able to overcome obstacles and see my life move in a positive direction. So, what am I afraid of? I have a few theories, but they’re a bit too private to share here.
I do know this: I need to be kind to myself, to accept myself and treat myself with compassion. That’s just my gut feeling about this whole thing. Gut feelings are good, but it’s always nice to have science to back you up. This is a great article on the importance of self-compassion. The author, Dr. Melanie Greenberg, cites the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Neff contrasts self-compassion with self-esteem (which she purports is “based on evidence of superior achievement”), defining it as ” a more constant personal quality, in which we value ourselves and treat ourselves kindly just because we are human,” and views mindfulness as a key element in self-compassion. Dr. Greenberg writes, “The essence of self-compassion is to acknowledge our own emotional suffering and then deliberately comfort ourselves by generating feelings of warmth, softness, and care towards ourselves and, by association, all living beings who are suffering.”
While reading the words “generating feelings of warmth, softness and care towards ourselves,” I thought to myself, “gee. I bet that would feel better than a donut.” And then I kept reading….
“Can Self-Compassion Make Me Healthier?
A 2007 study by Neff and colleagues suggests that self-compassion may be an important tool in weight-management and overcoming emotional eating. Students were given donuts to eat and half were assigned at random to hear a compassionate comment from the experimenter, such as ‘Don’t beat yourself up about eating these; subjects eat them all the time.” The other half received the donuts without the comment. Later that day, when given the chance to eat candy, those who heard the compassionate comment ate less. Therefore, self-compassion may help to prevent emotional eating resulting from feeling bad about breaking dietary restriction rules. Future research is needed to look at whether these benefits are also found in clinical populations such as obese people or those with eating disorders.”
So, point taken. Being kind to myself can help me on this journey. And I know, for a fact, that I’m already a kind person. Time to be kind to myself.
How are you kind to yourself?