Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be kind to other people ? To lift them up, compliment them, and smile? It is easy to say, “That dress looks beautiful on you,” or “You’re doing a great job!” But it is so much harder to be kind to yourself.
Imagine for a moment that your friend, parent or loved one had a terrible day. Maybe they failed an exam or made a mistake at work. Perhaps they are going through a hard time or struggling with depression or anxiety. What do you do?
You empathize and listen.
You hug them, try to cheer them up, ask them what they need. And you try to find ways to make them feel better. Now how would you react if that person was you?
Would you hug yourself, and ask yourself what you need? And would you allow yourself to experience and acknowledge your feelings and emotions? Could you be just as caring, empathetic and kind?
Many people will find themselves listening to that critical inner voice that whispers mean and discouraging things. They may include, “You should have,” “You don’t deserve,” or, “You will never…” And instead of being compassionate and kind, people often judge and treat themselves in disrespectful, unhelpful ways. Ways that they would never treat another person whom they care about.
Being Kind To Yourself
It is important to love yourself and treat yourself the way you would treat your loved ones. In fact, being in a healthy relationship with yourself is very important for your overall well-being. And it is the foundation for healing and personal growth. It provides emotional strength and resilience and allows you to make mistakes. Treating yourself with kindness also helps you learn to forgive and embrace imperfections. And it increases motivation.
Fortunately, being kind to yourself is a skill you can learn and practice.
Here are some suggestions on ways to start being kind to yourself.
Carve out ‘me-time’
Take time to unplug from your computer, the continuous stream of social media updates, and overflowing email. This is a great way to recharge the mind, body and soul. Every day, carve out some time for yourself and do something that calms your mind and brings you joy. You can listen to music, write in your journal, practice some yoga, listen to a guided meditation or anything else that you enjoy.
Acknowledge your feelings and emotions
Being kind to yourself means allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment.
Instead of judging your emotions or trying to numb them, you give yourself permission to experience them. Without judging yourself.
Take care of yourself
One of the best ways to show yourself kindness is to take good care of yourself. This includes nourishing yourself with enough food, taking care of your body, getting enough sleep and allowing yourself to take regular breaks to release tension and stress.
Give yourself recognition
When was the last time you acknowledged and appreciated yourself? Many people find it easier to acknowledge the strengths and achievements of others than to acknowledge their own.
To move forward in life, it’s important to recognize and celebrate your own accomplishments.
They give you the awareness and insights you need for future achievements. So the next time you achieve a (small) goal, stop for a minute and acknowledge it. Compliment yourself. Pat yourself on the back and say something uplifting and encouraging like, “Awesome job!”
Befriend your inner critic
We are all familiar with the inner critic. That pesky inner voice that expresses nothing but criticism, frustration or disapproval. When you become aware of your inner critic and notice pain it brings, you may want to get rid of it as soon as possible. We often try to push it away, ignore it, or engaging in unhealthy behaviors that we believe will silence it.
When I was in treatment for my eating disorder, a therapist told me, “The key is to become friends with your inner critic by listening to it in a non-judgmental and compassionate manner. And by recognizing it is attempting to protect you from being hurt. But in its attempt to take care of you, it’s using painful and unhelpful methods.”
This approach has it roots in both Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Pain and Illness Management (MBPM). One of the key elements of MBSR and MBPM is to use the wisdom of your body and mind. Listen more deeply to what lies beneath your inner critic’s whispers. Often you discover unresolved and buried fear, trauma, or emotions. Instead of fighting that fear, approach it with compassion and curiosity.
So the next time you hear your inner critic dragging you down with negative thoughts, try to engage with that voice. Begin a dialogue. What’s underneath and what is it trying to tell you? Be compassionate with yourself. And accept your feelings. When you realize your inner critic is ultimately trying to help you and try to understand it’s underlying fears and needs, it will lose its power.
Because in the end, the most effective way to approach yourself is from a place of kindness and compassion.
Accept and appreciate yourself
Self-acceptance means you stop trying to change yourself into the person you’re not while remaining open to discovering the real and beautiful person you are. We all have strengths and weaknesses, we all make silly mistakes, and we all fail every now and then. The truth is, none of us are perfect.
By accepting yourself just the way you are, you make space for new experiences, new hopes and dreams.
And you make room to become who you really are.
Tell yourself “I am good enough” (on a daily basis)
At some point, we are all guilty of some negative self-talk or labeling ourselves as either good or bad. This results in feelings of unworthiness or shame. It can be helpful to put a more positive perspective on things. Work to replace negative thoughts like, “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve,” with positive thoughts. Examples include, “I am enough,” “I am worthy of love,” and, “I do not need to change myself to be good enough”.