Kindness Toward Self = Honesty With Self
Following last week’s post, which showed us that by providing acts of kindness to others we can make ourselves happier, I’d like to talk about actually showing kindness toward self. We are often not kind to ourselves. Interestingly, I was just discussing with a client recently how we are often kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves. Do you find this to be true? Even a little? I see this every day in dear friends and strangers. In fact, many have heard me encourage kindness to self before. Why am I so preachy about this very important effort? I've experienced firsthand what it was like to not be kind to myself and the difference that effort of gentleness with self has made in my life.
The realization that I needed to accept myself to truly understand what it was to accept others was a huge step forward for me. What did it mean to me to be kind and gentle to myself? To me it meant to realize when I am causing myself suffering through my words, thoughts, and actions. The suffering of wishing I’d spoken to others in a kinder way, or acted differently; the suffering of spending hours thinking about something I cannot change, something that will never happen, or didn't even really happen the way I've redesigned it in my mind; and the suffering of putting food or substances into my body that cause it harm both in the short term and the long term. And as much as I work on this, I’m constantly reminding myself. Gentle… Enough….
Dr. Kristin Neff with the University of Texas Austin has done a lot of research on Self-Compassion. You may have seen her excellent Ted Talk. She tells us that self-compassion increases motivation. People with more self-compassion have less depression and are less critical, and they are more likely to honestly note the places in their lives that need to be changed and to move forward with that change. You can imagine that if someone kicked you every time you realized you could improve how you communicated or acted in your life, you wouldn't be very honest with those realizations. Our mind knows this. If all we do is tell ourselves how stupid we are; or how much work we have yet to do before we amount to anything; or how lazy we are; or how we've never done anything right; chances are we do a lot of mental kicking ourselves or we have a tendency to be less than honest with ourselves about these things. In either case, we don’t tend to move forward with positive change when being mean or dishonest with ourselves. But, when we are gently honest we develop a sincere desire to make changes.
To begin showing yourself warmth, I strongly encourage taking up Loving Kindness, also called Metta, meditation. Following are some links to free guided Loving Kindness meditations that you can try. You can also watch for my online classes to be released in April. Loving Kindness will be one of the meditations I teach!
- UCLA provides a nice 9 minute guided Loving Kindness meditation to get anyone started.
- Kristin Neff’s guided meditations: The Loving Kindness meditation is about 20 minutes.
How were you kind to yourself today?
Resources for self-compassion:
Dr. Kristin Neff’s website: http://www.self-compassion.org/
40 Ways to Practice Self-Kindness - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kindness-blog/40-ways-to-practice-selfk_b_5886794.html
Developing Self Compassion and Learning to be Nicer to Ourselves: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/self-compassion-learning-to-be-nicer-to-ourselves/