We hear about mindfulness, where we increase our awareness of what we are doing – our attention – in the present moment.
We also hear the phrases “be kind to others” and “pay it forward” when we pass on acts of kindness from others to someone else. Or how that person we smile at in the street may not have had contact with anyone else that day. The acts of kindness we carry out without a second thought may seem easy to many, but what about acts of true kindness to self, and what form can they take?
Would You Say That to a Friend?
“I’m so stupid!” I used to admonish myself when I broke or dropped something in the kitchen. But would I say that to a friend? Not at all! And that’s true of many of us. So why are we so hard on ourselves? It might be because we’ve internalised what someone has said to us in the past, which has set up a critical “inner voice” within us.
The concept of self-compassion and the Buddhist meditations which encourage self-compassion can help us to replace this harsh inner critic. Instead, it’s replaced with self-kindfulness, which says, “it was an accident; you’re doing the best you can.” It takes work (and self-patience, accompanied by compassion!) to change our inner programming, but you can do it. I look back on the perfectionist streak and realise it came from being too hard on myself. I learnt to let go (mostly!) of the pressure I put myself under.
What sorts of things do you say to yourself? How could you replace them with other, more kindful ways to talk to yourself? Catch yourself as you say them; just notice (don’t tell yourself off for it either!) Just ask yourself, “what would a wise friend say?”
On my new website jigsawpeace.life, there is a free meditation called “Compassion for Pain”. Listening to and practising meditation repeatedly can help us escape the habitual practice of being hard on ourselves. Instead, we replace those words or thoughts with kindfulness.
Being unkind to ourselves for being in pain increases tension. Accepting what’s happening to us right now, be it physical, mental, or emotional pain may help ease it. Being kindlier can make an incredible difference, and just bringing compassion to the situation allows us to relax. Often asking ourselves, “what would a kind friend say to me right now?” can be life-changing, like taking a great weight off our shoulders!
Fortunately for me, I’m quite clumsy! The gift is that I’ve had plenty of practice at letting go not just of the dishes but my harsh inner “kitchen” voice! As I clear up another pile of produce I’ve spilt or a glass I’ve smashed, I feel less tired than I used to. It is as it is. And it’s a great relief to adopt an attitude of “self-kindliness”.
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