Be kind. To yourself.
Kindness and self compassion
For mental health awareness week 2020 the theme is kindness. Today I've been thinking a lot about kindness, self compassion and the power of words and our thoughts.
For a lot of us being kind to others comes very naturally. However the bigger challenge, is extending this kindness to ourselves.
I’m a kind person. I help others when I can. Ive worked in a caring profession since I was 18 years old. I can’t see myself working in any other field.
However when it comes to being kind to myself, I have been my own worst enemy. I’m my biggest critic. The compassion, grace and kindness that I have for others, is often non existence for myself. I wonder who else can say the same?
In our attempts to be kind to others, let’s not forget ourselves. In our grace and compassion for others, think about using some on yourself. We hear kindness is free to give. Why don't you give yourself some?
Being kind to ourselves helps us with our mental and emotional wellbeing. It fosters self acceptance and self compassion.
If you could hear out loud the voice of your self critic, or even just the voice of your thoughts, what would you hear? Grace, compassion and encouragement? Or defeat, shame and judgement?
Let’s take an example. You are making a cake for a party.
Your inner critic (that pesky voice of doubt, fear, insignificance) says
‘You’re a rubbish baker. No one will like the cake. People will think you are useless, pathetic. I don’t even know why you are bothering.’
If you heard those words from someone you love, how would you feel?
Your shoulders would drop, your eyes would falter, and your self esteem plummet. Fear and doubt would set in and you would approach the cake baking with trepidation, uncertainly and poor confidence.
Now imagine someone you love saying,
‘I’m so proud you are making this cake. Your friends love you, and will appreciate the effort. Even if it doesn’t go exactly to plan, you have tried your best. You have everything you need to be able to do this.’
If you heard those words, how would you feel as you approached the cake baking? Proud, confident and self assured.
Some of the statements I hear from my inner critic, I am too ashamed to even repeat.
One day, I considered the catastrophic devastation that these words/thoughts were having on my own life. I then imagined someone saying these words to my daughter.
Immediately righteous, motherly anger arose in me, and like a lioness protecting her cubs, I roared an inner battle cry of,
‘don’t you DARE speak to my child like that.’
I was ready to fight for, and defend, my daughters value and worth.
I then imagined the hurt my daughter would experience on hearing such words. I imagined the long term damage to her emotional and mental health and how hard it would be to rebuild her sense of worth and value.
That monumental day will stay with me forever. It was the day I realised the effects our inner critic, or our throughs about ourselves, could have on our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Maybe that is what we need to say to our inner thought life or self critic.
‘don’t you dare speak to ME like that.’
THAT is self compassion.
THAT is kindness to ourselves.
You are worth fighting for.
Give yourself the value and worth which you were created with.
Maybe that’s what God is saying.
'Don’t you dare speak to my child like that.’
I’m acutely aware that some of you reading this will have had similar, and much worse devastating words spoken about you by others. For this my heart breaks for you. It was not your fault and beyond your control. When you should have been loved and cherished, you were broken and abandoned. This goes beyond your ability to be self compassionate, and you were a victim of others. Please seek the relevant help and support.
I’m also acutely aware of how easy it is for me to say, change your inner voice and be kind to yourself. It’s not an easy change to make and a daily challenge.
I’ve posted some resources below that have helped me and maybe helpful to someone else.