- For many people, self-kindness starts with repairing one's relationship with oneself.
- Self-kindness is a component of a self-compassionate frame of mind and contributes to greater well-being.
- Everyone has the capacity to practice behaviors that are restorative and kind.
Kindness is leaning into a deep trust that people are really trying their best. It is holding space that life is inherently hard, and people have varying degrees of capacity in how they show up. Knowing this, we meet people with compassion and understanding and maintain perspective. There is also a gentleness in kindness with knowing that no one has to carry the weight of the world on their own and that there are people who want to help.
Take a moment to reflect. Do you show up for yourself in this way? Do you recognize that you are trying your best with the tools and resources you have, in the circumstances you find yourself in? Do you offer yourself the same gentleness and compassion that you would show a dear friend experiencing struggle? Too often, we neglect to show up for ourselves in this way.
We hold ourselves to such high standards and meet ourselves with judgment and criticism when we fall short of our expectations. So many of us try to be perfect and leave little room for error in our personal and professional lives. We get stuck in this "when-then" trap, telling ourselves, “When I get this done, then I will give myself a break.” Unfortunately, the breaks and self-care never come, and we start neglecting our own needs. We think that we have to handle all the chaos life has to offer us on our own. But this is unfair to us and those we care for.
The reality is that life is messy and complex for all of us. Holding ourselves to these ridiculous standards of perfection is not sustainable. We are humans, living the full-human experience, and not one of us is without faults. We will inevitably make mistakes, experience setbacks, and stumble along the way. We need to meet ourselves with compassion and forgiveness in these moments and find kinder ways of living.
Kristin Neff is a researcher in self-compassion. She views self-compassion as treating yourself as you tend to treat others experiencing suffering, failure, or feelings of inadequacy. In Neff’s work, self-compassion involves three elements: self-kindness (being gentle and understanding with ourselves), common humanity (recognizing that suffering and setbacks are part of the shared human experience), and mindfulness (observing our thoughts and feelings as they are, without suppressing or exaggerating).
According to Neff (2009), having self-compassion is linked to greater feelings of happiness, optimism, and connectedness, and decreased anxiety, depression, and fear of failure. It is also shown that those who demonstrate self-compassion experience greater well-being and life satisfaction than those who are self-critical.
There is a lot of unlearning that many of us need to do so we can start taking care of ourselves and do the things we know we should be doing. First, we must feel and know that we deserve to be well. It is when we know deep down in our core that we are worth taking care of, just as we are, that we begin to show ourselves kindness. Then, we can take action to stay well and feel our best.
What a world of difference it makes when we work to build a self-compassionate frame of mind and show up for ourselves with the kindness and care we need.
4 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself
Here are some ways you can show up kindly for yourself, starting today:
- Practice Using Kinder Language: Think about how you would talk to a friend, loved one, or even your younger self. Now think about your internal dialogue. We are often our own worst critics. Each of us needs to check in on the stories we are telling ourselves. If we find that these stories are self-destructive and unkind, we can reframe and rewrite them to build our sense of self-worth. Practicing positive, supportive, and encouraging self-talk can truly make a difference in how you show up for yourself and others. Be gentle with yourself.
- Basics Done Right: Take care of yourself by sleeping well, eating healthy, and getting regular movement. Notice how you feel when you take care of your body and meet your most basic needs. As Jim Rohn said, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
- Give Yourself Permission to Rest: Time for rest and recovery is important. The exhaustion you experience from the hustle and bustle of life is not an indication of success. It is a sign you need a break. Once we reset through resting, we can then work to replenish our emotional reservoirs by doing things that spark joy, merriment, and hope. Work to set healthy boundaries for your life so you can stay well for yourself, and others too.
- Practice Gratitude: Noticing, appreciating, and trusting the good things in our lives keeps us in the present, activates many of the happy hormones (like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin), and increases empathy and compassion. If we feel grateful, we are more likely to act kindly.
- Ask for Help: You don’t have to carry the heavy weight of the world on your own. We can acknowledge that the experience we are going through is not easy and ask for help when we need it. There is an admirable strength in showing up for yourself in this way.
We often hear, “Treat people with kindness,” and it is time for us to realize that we are also those humans we need to be showing kindness to. We are deserving of the same kindness and tenderness we show others. Each of us has the capacity to practice behaviours that are restorative and kind. Even asking ourselves, “What do I need right now?” or “What is my next right step?” can allow us a moment of reflection and self-compassion. Let’s choose to show up kindly for ourselves, not just when we are experiencing struggle, but all the time. Let’s let kindness permeate our thoughts, our words, and our actions towards ourselves and watch as it flows into those around us.