Being kind to others is in our nature. But being kind to ourselves can feel unnatural or uncomfortable, especially when it comes to our own inner dialogue. The challenge is to relearn how we speak to ourselves when we struggle. After all, we view success as the outcome of working ourselves day and night. We idealize the ‘grind’ and take on more than needed without asking for help. Or we casually joke that we’re our worst enemy (as if we need one). The truth is, if we’re going to learn to be kind to ourselves, the status quo has got to go.
The time for our inner voices to shift from negative self-talk to self-compassion is now. It’s time to recognize that we deserve the same level of compassion that we so readily offer to those around us. Because being kind to ourselves is not a sign of weakness. It is strength. It’s strength when we’re afraid, when we are sick and when we are healing.
Being kind to ourselves is a radical act of resilience, or as we like to say, “self-care is healthcare.” It’s a powerful demonstration of being present, and it is a manifestation that our struggles matter. Science and research agree, now more than ever, that we need to exercise self-love in order to thrive, and here are some ways to do so.
Make Peace, Let Go & Have Grace
One of the biggest hurdles with learning how to practice self-compassion is making peace with our past. We all have stories with shame, guilt and regret. And dwelling in the past can make it difficult to move on and move forward. Yet, it’s not until we allow ourselves the grace to own our past, and turn our regret into stories, that we’re free to let go. “Grace...,” according to shame expert and author of Rising Strong, Brené Brown, “...means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.” When we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of shame or remorse about how we handled a situation, or even just a moment of cringe, we have the option to own it. We did that. We stumbled. And just look at our comeback.
Get Centered, Be Present & Hold Space
While getting exercise can be a form of self-love, we’re not specifically referring to exercise. Instead, we mean taking a moment to check in with our bodies. According to the Greater Good Science Center, one mindful practice anyone can try is to take a moment to check in during a “compassion break.” While thinking about a difficult situation that causes stress, stop and take a minute or two to consider where in our bodies we feel it. Just this one simple mindfulness practice allows us to validate and be present with our stressor – without judgement.
This type of mindfulness practice helps to center ourselves in the present moment. While we may have fear for the future or dwell on the past, taking a moment to really feel our feelings is a powerful practice. Over time, the very act of holding space – being physically, mentally, and emotionally present without judgement – builds a safe place for us to lean into kindness.
Practice Positive Self Talk
Our inherent ability to nurture, be kind and have compassion for others is astonishing. There’s almost no limit to the amount of kindness we would offer to our family, best friends, neighbors and beloved pets. If we could travel back in time and find a younger version of ourselves, we’d probably take ourselves by the shoulders and say, “We love you. You’re doing great. There is nothing wrong with you. You are special and loved.” Other than the time travel thing, we can pretty much do this right now. It may take some practice, but the benefits, according to a ten-year self-compassion expert, Kristin Neww, Ph.D., are huge!
Recognize We Are All Human.
Our world may be in trouble. The news can be bleak. And it feels like we’re more divided than ever. But regardless of which news cycle we’re in this week, we’re still all in this together. Our common humanity – the fact that we’re more alike than we are different – is one of the major factors in accepting that we are not alone in the journey of this human experience. We all struggle to feel better and we all feel pain. And comparing individual journey or past to anyone else’s doesn’t diminish it, but when we extend self-compassion, we’re joining the human condition. No one has to be excluded. It’s about recognizing that we are doing the best we can — with who we are, what we've got and with the resources we've been given.
When we care for ourselves, we set better boundaries. When we are kind to ourselves, we give our past selves grace for making mistakes. When we are kind to ourselves, we check in with our physical presence and hold space. Self-care is self-love. It is kind. It is radical. And it connects us to the bigger experience we all share.
“Loving yourself is not antithetical to health, it is intrinsic to health. You can’t take good care of a thing you hate.” – Lindy West