Learning to be kind to oneself

I was talking to friends a while ago, and we were discussing how we are our own worst enemies. Who needs proper rivalries, fiends, or dragons when the voices in your head keep telling you nothing you do is enough? I have always been my own harshest critic. Nothing is ever good enough. Or done right. Or perfect. There is always more to do: more things to know, to accomplish, to absorb. And let me tell you, it is EXHAUSTING.

As part of my project to understand how I might feel successful* about my life outside of work, I have had to give serious assessment to the way my internal voice works. I have had to listen to her, and get her to stop when she starts to drone on at me about goodness, and being enough. I have started to realise when that voice is speaking, and am taking steps to stop the behaviour, which is the first step towards self-kindness I think. I saw a post on Instagram by Jamie Varon. She wrote, “If you berate yourself into achievement, you will berate yourself whether you’re striving or at the top.” Her note talks about compassion, and the importance of giving yourself “an endless supply of compassion” because “compassion will get you there with joy”.

What does it mean really, compassion? If you look in the dictionary, words like empathy, understanding, care, concern, kindness, sensitivity, and tolerance all come up. In essence it means showing yourself a little of the kindness and understanding you show to others.

How do you do this? For me, it is about recognising when I need to rest. Sometimes this takes the form of not setting an alarm clock on a weekend morning and letting my body wake up naturally. And that means sometimes missing a yoga class I thought I’d wanted to go to. Other times it means acknowledging the true desires of my inner heart, and responding to them. Recently, this has meant accepting that I really want to bake, and worrying less about what that means for my body size. (Sorry Mom).

Paying attention to when my inner critic is speaking is difficult because it means identifying and working to change behaviours that are incredibly entrenched in my way of being. How do I define what is truly good for me when it is not tied to outside accomplishment and praise? How can I look internally and navigate those values that are truly me? That are not set by some external body of success? How do I define my life outside of monetary/financial/career wealth? I am still working on that, working to identify the values that are most important, and working to adjust my life in accordance with what I find. Kindness to myself is just a first mini-step down this road.

Other forms of kindnesses recently:

  • not beating myself up when I want to play candy crush more than I want to read my book;
  • worrying less about where my career is going (and what I am doing with my life) and surrendering to this moment, here and now;
  • being wholly present when I get to spend time with A-
  • not making plans on the weekend so if I don’t want to do anything I don’t have to;
  • letting myself have a glass of wine (maybe more) and not worrying about whether this will affect my fertility;
  • listening to what my body wants to eat and figuring it’ll probably balance out over the day and/or week;
  • ordering an organic veg box because even though it is more expensive, I absolutely love receiving it and then cooking with all the ingredients;
  • being flexible about some of my deadlines. Working seriously on accepting that sometimes writing takes longer than I thought it would, and that there are other things (like moving house!) that have to take priority at certain points.

It is a journey. But then kindness to oneself and others is a kind of success no?

*I am aware that even using the term successful is fraught with tension and coded in a particular way but I am choosing to overlook that for now.

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