“I’ve been searching for ways to heal myself, and I’ve found that kindness is the best way.” – Lady Gaga
We all like to think of ourselves as being kind. If we hear from a friend who is in distress, we try to think of what we can do or say that could be helpful and supportive. If we come across a child that is upset, we are concerned and want to do what we can to offer comfort. In among all the distress and anxiety caused by the Corona Virus we are seeing many heart-warming stories of care and thoughtfulness. Everyone will have examples that come to mind.
Do we treat ourselves the same way? I don’t think so! Often the language we use in relation to ourselves and our own experience is incredibly negative. So often when we look back at our past, perhaps when we reflect on experiences from childhood and adolescence, we are judgmental. We stand against ourselves rather than with ourselves.
Here’s a useful test to see if our perceptions of our younger selves are accurate. Would we use the same words and have the same feelings if someone else related these experiences to us? Or would we be more “friendly, generous, considerate”?
If we can be kinder to ourselves it can make such a huge difference to how we feel. Where we feel ashamed, embarrassed, angry and hurt we could experience the care and compassion that would help us move forward. The potential is right there within us, it isn’t dependent on anyone else. Not that the kindness of others isn’t important, but why leave our own stock going off sat on the shelves when it could be doing us the world of good? Don’t you feel famished for a little kindness sometimes?
Think about how much easier it is to respond to encouragement rather than censure. It’s like the difference between being given a push to get started and having to drag a weight behind you.
Sadly, however true this is, it can be so difficult to be kind to ourselves after a lifetime of internalising negative ideas about ourselves, taking on board what we think others might think, and our own capacity to self-punish. This is where talking with a therapist can be helpful. The experience of being met with care, thoughtfulness, and not being rejected as we share our story and our thoughts offers us an alternative viewpoint on our experience. It invites to explore how it might be to join in and be kind to ourselves too. The relief can be quite overwhelming. Think about the test I mentioned earlier to see if you are treating yourself more negatively than you treat others. Do you think it might be time to be a little kinder to yourself?