Kindness and self-kindness: two sides of the same coin
We value kindness and appreciate heartfelt thanks. We engage in small acts of kindness or big charitable efforts. Can our kindness go further? Can we offer the same kindness and understanding to ourselves as we do to others? Self care and self-kindness matter. If we don’t look after ourselves we will have less energy and less enthusiasm to be there for others and our own wellbeing may deteriorate.
Kindness towards a friend in need can take on many forms, a good chat and a smile and some kind words for sure. Self-kindness involves responding in the same supportive and understanding way you would with a good friend when you have difficult time, fail or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Just imagine a close friend who’s had a tough day and rings to tell you all about it. What do you say? How do you feel? You approach your friend with warmth and compassion. Now, imagine you’ve had a bad day. Can you picture your self talk? Chances are it’s far from being nice. It’s time to change how you think and feel and instead meet your tough days with kindness.
Notice when you feel sad or angry. Pause. Don’t rush into negative self talk.
Take a few deep breaths. Bring to mind your favourite smell and inhale it slowly.
Imagine you aren’t alone with these difficult emotions. Everywhere in the world people get sad or get angry or make a mistake. We all have this in common. It’s not just you.
Try a kind soothing gesture. Gently touch your cheek or place one hand over your heart.
Ask yourself: what do I need right now? Maybe a few kind words are enough. Maybe you need to reach for help. Consider the kindest thing to do for your physical and mental health right then and there. And do it.
Beware as there are a few harmful myths about self-kindness:
Being kind to myself is selfish
No, it isn’t. Treating yourself with warmth and respect will not turn you into a selfish person. Research by Dr Kristin Neff and Dr Chris Germer shows people who practice self-kindness are more compassionate and more forgiving towards others too.
Being kind to myself is a sign of weakness
No, it isn’t. Self-kindness will grow into a source of inner strength. It then builds courage and enhances resilience when we face difficulties in life. Research shows people who cultivate self-kindness can better cope with stressful situations such as illness or chronic pain or even divorce.
Being kind to myself is a form of self-pity
No, it isn’t the same as throwing a pity party for “poor me”. The truth is, self-pity allows you to dwell on how miserable you are while self-kindness brings you closer to others as you realise life can be tough for anyone. Research shows when we practice self-kindness we are less likely to ruminate on everything that has gone wrong and as a result we have better mental health.
Self-kindness will make me lazy
No, it won’t. It’s the opposite of self-indulgence. Research shows people who cultivate self-kindness engage in healthier behaviours such as eating well, drinking less, getting enough rest and doing exercise on a regular basis.
Harsh self-criticism is the only thing that drives me to succeed
Definitely not. Self-criticism over time ruins your self-confidence and leads to fear of failure. People who treat themselves with kindness will be more motivated to reach their goals because they truly care about themselves and wish to thrive.
Over time self-kindness will provide a stable sense of self-worth and will improve our mental health. Self-kindness also helps us grow through a difficult experience instead of just going through it and hardly coping. And kindness unites us and helps us get stronger as a community.