What does kindness mean to you? Giving a homeless person a dollar? Letting your boyfriend have the last bite of cheesecake? Showing up at your best friend’s apartment armed with saltine crackers, chicken soup, and a week’s worth of their favorite rom-coms when she is quarantined with a stomach bug?
But what about being kind to ourselves?
I associated kindness with all the above. It wasn’t until I stopped and became aware of my thoughts that I realized that all of those circumstances focus on being kind to others, and not myself.
In a society that deems selflessness as the ultimate form of kindness, we often allow our personal well-being to suffer in order to put others needs before our own. But in reality, taking care of ourselves is being responsible, not selfish. Practicing self-kindness is an essential expression of self-love, one that is so often overlooked, or even forgotten entirely. Allowing kindness to cultivate within ourselves will also allow us to easily and genuinely extend this kindness out to others.
Self-love is too often forgotten. I readily admit that I catch myself becoming burned out and tired of my everyday routine because I forget to check in with my body and ask myself what it is that I need to do for myself. I’ve always believed that by treating others with kindness, it will make me feel better. Until recently I never thought that if I focused on taking care of my needs first that I would be a happier and healthier individual, able to express love and good energy more easily to others.
So, what exactly is self-kindness? Marissa Håkansson, women’s mentor and writer for Mind Body Green, describes that it “can be experienced by caring for the whole of who we are physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually; listening to our bodies and being honest with what we truly need in each moment; showing ourselves love, acceptance and forgiveness through all of our experiences; and being gentle towards ourselves in our thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors.” In other words, Håkansson suggests to simply focus on loving yourself.
I know you know what I mean. More importantly, realize that at times it will truly take courage to shift your focus from taking care of others to putting your needs first. Somewhere along the lines of growing up most of us were led to believe in order to be a good person, we have to focus on other’s needs before our own. But that’s simply not true. Whatever it is that you enjoy, do more of it! Whether it be doing some power yoga, taking a nap, playing your favorite tunes, and dancing around your apartment for an hour, eating a bowl of ice cream, it genuinely doesn’t matter, just do it!
On top of doing the things you love, be proactive and learn to find ways that you can be kinder to yourself so you don’t start to feel yourself getting burnt out from everyday life. Don’t overextend yourself. Take the time to check in with how you’re feeling. If your boss asks you to cover a shift at work and you already know you have to work the next seven days in a row, say no! If your best friend wants to sit and gab all afternoon at the local coffee shop but you simply don’t have the patience, reschedule! Putting your needs first does not make you a bad person. There is nothing wrong with helping other people, but you shouldn’t feel like you always have to.
The takeaway: Just be kind to yourself. Don’t sit there and beat yourself up because didn’t go for a run like you had planned. Instead, focus on how you can make that run happen tomorrow. Or don’t. Just don’t sit there and make yourself suffer. As soon as you start treating yourself kinder, you will have a stronger foundation from which you will be able to radiate this love and kindness outwards.
Featured Image via Fernando Brasil.