How to be kind to yourself
Just like the old oxygen mask analogy, if we’re not kind to ourselves first, it can be more challenging to be kind to other people.
Taking care of our own physical and mental health is essential for keeping our energy levels topped up so we have an abundance of energy to express kindness. Sure, we can still be kind when we’re tired and depleted, but it’s definitely easier to show kindness more effortlessly when our physical AND emotional buckets are full.
When we’re kind to ourselves, we’ll not only feel better, we’ll also do better! Think about the last time you were told off for making a mistake, at work or by your partner, for example. How do you feel when someone speaks harshly to you, or shouts at you?
When someone expresses negative behaviour towards you, you realise pretty swiftly that you’ve done something to upset the other person, but how motivated do you feel to do better next time? Probably not much. This is the same when we are hard on ourselves. We all make mistakes from time to time. Sure, some of these could have been prevented, but hindsight is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Dwelling on what we could have done differently doesn’t change the situation. What does help the situation is acknowledging and accepting the mistake, then, if possible, trying to resolve it. Finally, we need to MOVE ON.
If you struggle with moving on, imagine if a friend or family member had made a mistake. What would you say to them? Chances are it wouldn’t be the negative things you’re saying to yourself. You’d say, “Hey, come on – everyone makes mistakes, just keep going”, or “It’s not as bad as you think”, or “Don’t worry, this is fixable”. Simply imagine you’re talking to someone you love when you talk to yourself. Showing love and respect to yourself is just as important as showing love and respect to your nearest and dearest.
Don’t beat yourself up any more. Chances are someone has made you feel bad, but they probably won’t make you feel any worse than you already feel about yourself – go easy on yourself!
Being kind to ourselves by going easy on ourselves can be applied to so many different parts of our lives. Like when we miss a workout because we’re tired, or making an unhealthy food choice because we weren’t organised enough to do the grocery shopping, or taking the night off to relax and watch TV or go to bed early when there’s a mountain of washing to fold, or housework to do. Provided these breaks in our routine don’t become bad habits, the best thing to do is just to get back on the wagon and make a heathier or more productive choice next time, rather than beat ourselves up.
It’s also important to make time for the activities we love in our lives. Perhaps you’ve lost touch with these activities over time, because of work and/or family commitments. I implore you to reconnect with these activities, because they will nurture and ignite your soul!
If you’re struggling to think of any activities or hobbies you enjoy doing, think back to your childhood and you will find clues. What did you enjoy doing as a child? Perhaps you loved drawing, playing a musical instrument or singing, sewing, being outside in the garden, dancing, or running. Chances are you never wanted to stop these activities, but time, money, or other commitments prevented you from continuing to do them. Now is the time to reconnect!
Or perhaps there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, such as grow are garden or learn another language. Be kind and give yourself permission to explore. Your soul will thank you for it.
Making time for self-care is another way we can demonstrate kindness to ourselves. When I say self-care, I don’t necessarily mean getting a fancy facial or making time for massage. Sure, these things are great, and by all means do these too, but self-care can be as simple as getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, as well as making time to move and relax our bodies through exercise and meditation. Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk in the fresh air, and meditation as simple as focusing on our breathing for 5 minutes.
One of my favourite self-care rituals is body brushing, followed by relaxing in a hot bath and reading a book. I might add some sweet-smelling bubble bath or bath salts and apply a face mask for the ultimate luxury. I love doing this once the kids have gone to bed and I know I won’t be disturbed. One of your self-care rituals could be listening to some relaxing music, or taking a few moments to sip and savour your favourite tea from a special cup.
Now it’s time for you to take ACTION. I’ll leave you with some questions to reflect on. I encourage you to write your answers to these questions in your journal or in your Morning Pages, as this will hopefully prompt other thoughts and observations:
- Think of the last time you beat yourself up for making a mistake or not doing something. How could you have shown yourself more kindness in this situation?
- What fun activity/activities do you enjoy doing and wish you could do more often? How could you make more time during the week to fit this activity in? This doesn’t have to be a big time commitment, say just 30 minutes per week to start, or a few minutes a day, depending on the activity. In addition to time, what else do you need to facilitate this activity: materials, dedicated space, other people, etc. Try to source and organise the tools, materials, or extra bits you need so you can start your activity this week.
- What self-care activities do you enjoy doing? In your journal, jot down some things you love doing to unwind and recharge. HINT: These don’t have to be time consuming or expensive! It’s often the little rituals that provide us with the most comfort.
I hope this post has highlighted the importance of being kind to yourself, in the same way you are kind to others. I also hope some of the ideas I have shared have inspired you to reignite your connection with activities and self-care practices you love doing, and encourage you to replenish your energy levels regularly.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Louise Hay: “You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”