My whole life I was taught to be kind to others, to think about how my actions would make someone feel and that once words are spoken they can never be taken back. This is sound advice, and I have heard myself say these very same words to my own two kids over the years.
Lately there have been lots of movements involving kindness – and this is a very good thing – I’m all for it. However, I think one very important aspect of kindness is often overlooked – practicing SELF kindness. I don’t know about you but I wasn’t taught to take care of me, to speak kindly to me, to be patient and express gratitude for myself. If anything, the message I have received from the world all my life is the opposite. Strive to be better, to be more, to achieve more, buy more, look better…The impossible standards of perfection we have all been exposed to through media have only increased over the years. Not only are there airbrushed and edited photos in magazines, there are apps for our phones to make regular people appear more “perfect” – whatever that means to them.
It’s taken a lot of self-reflection and some very wise people to get the message through to me that being kind to myself is not being selfish or narcissistic. It is not being self-indulgent or any other negative word I can conjure up for myself. Taking care of me and showing kindness to myself is where it should all begin.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup”, is something I’m sure we’ve all heard. But do we listen? When you look at your old jeans that you no longer fit, when you didn’t score as high on your exam as you hoped, when your child has a meltdown, when you haven’t cleaned your bathroom in over a week – what are you saying to yourself? “Ugh, I’ve gained so much weight I’m too fat for these jeans!” or “I’m not smart enough for this class” or “I must be doing something wrong for my child to act like this!” and “I am useless, I can’t even keep up with my housework!”. I know those are my go to thoughts.
If we are gentle with ourselves and extend the same kindness to ourselves that we do to others beautiful things can happen. We drop that impossible standard of perfection. We begin to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings and when we can do that for ourselves, it becomes even easier to extend that same grace to others.
Striving for perfection is a dangerous game. Don’t confuse it with the healthy trying to do your best – this is different. Perfectionists set themselves up for failure. EVERY. TIME. It is simply impossible to be perfect. Striving for perfection hampers our success because we hold ourselves back from opportunities sometimes because we are afraid what we do/say/are might not be perfect. Our deep fear of failing or making mistakes or disappointing someone or ourselves holds us back.
But what if we forgave ourselves for being imperfect? Embraced our mistakes as learning opportunities? What if we showed ourselves some kindness? Wouldn’t that be something.