Be Kind to Yourself

The benefits of self-kindness and compassion are many and significant. Many of us have critical tapes of self-condemnation running in our heads on what feels like an endless loop. They serve no purpose and leave us feeling “less than”. The origin of these thoughts I will leave to Dr. Freud and his friends to figure out. The question I explore here is, how might we shift so that our self talk is comparable to the way we would speak to a friend, a child or a vulnerable person?

Choose being kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time.
Richard Carlson

self compassionBeing kind to oneself, especially during times of stress, requires intention and specific, focused action. One way to tap into a rich vein of kindness is to consider beings in your life to whom you extend unconditional kindness, perhaps a child, or an animal. Spend a moment or two sending kindness their way. Picture their face, their eyes, the ease with which they let your kindness land. Now picture yourself receiving that same kindness. Consider developing a kindness tool kit: what are some ways that you can be more kind to yourself? Bring awareness to the critical voice that runs on an endless tape in your head and look for ways to re-write the monologue, so that you are kinder to yourself. Asignal phrase to watch for is “I should be more, do more, be better… “.

you are enough 3Rick Hanson, the brilliant neuropsychologist author of Buddha’s Brain, suggests that as soon as you feel mistreated, bring compassion to yourself by putting your hand on your cheek or heart to simulate the embodied experience of receiving compassion. This is a powerful physical way to be kind to yourself.

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

born to make mistakesA key element to kindness is patience. Being patient with yourself, especially during times of stress, can be challenging. See if you can catch impatient thoughts about yourself and replace them as soon as you can with kind thoughts. I’m such an idiot might be replaced with I’m doing my best here. Shift from: I can’t do this, I’m not good enough. Shift to: I can learn to do this. I am doing my best here. I am enough.”

Note the distinction between doing one’s best and being perfect. Unkindness and impatience have their roots in perfectionism and the need for control. Expectations for perfection, which is by definition beyond human capability, breed impatience, disappointment and self- judgment.

How might you shift from seeking perfection to aiming for excellence instead? Excellence allows room for growth and feels lighter. It affords breathing space. Excellence can shift as you evolve, perfection is an absolute and feels constricting.

Kindness to self is also about setting and honoring boundaries. Being kind to yourself and others doesn’t mean being a doormat or having low standards or wavering from your values. Boundaries are a very important component of self-kindness. Sticking up for yourself and letting others know what is and isn’t OK with you is an act of kindness toward self. Sometimes self-kindness is about saying No. No is a complete sentence after all

If you had a friend who talked to you like you sometimes talk to yourself, would you continue to hang around with that person?
Rob Bremer

AesopInvitation

This month, see if you can find ways to be more kind to yourself:

Where might you be more patient with yourself? Cut your self some slack?
What unkind thoughts toward yourself will you replace with kind ones?
Notice the space and ease you feel when you shift from seeking perfection to seeking excellence.
How might you be kind to yourself right now by saying No?

Resource

Just One Thing: Neuropsychologist genius guy, Rick Hanson, provides simple and powerful ways to re-wire our brains using mindfulness and compassion. I recommend his work all the time. His newsletter is also great: http://www.rickhanson.net