I forgot to set my alarm.
I woke up to the loud DING! of a new text. Still hazy, I grabbed my phone. Allison would be at the front door in about 20 minutes, she said… Holy smokes — what? It was 9:11.
I slipped on yoga pants and ran a comb through my tangled hair. I brushed my teeth, then stepped on the scale. Oh god, two pounds up again. And why had I overslept today, of all days? I had to pack my son for his 10-day trip, plan tonight’s tutoring sessions, get kitty litter and toilet paper, write, pay the late phone bill, schedule blood work, work out, clean house... Arg!
Immediately, I heard that villainous voice begin to whisper:
- What’s wrong with you?
- You’re hopeless, tired, ridiculous, fat.
- You’re not smart, savvy, or good enough. You gotta improve.
- Why can’t you pull it together?
When things don’t go right, I get wrong with myself. During my weaker moments, that uber-critical voice hijacks my thoughts and takes me hostage.
Maybe you also hear that voice. It starts as a whisper but gets louder. It bullies its way into your mind — and your heart.
If you let it continue, pretty soon you’re locked into a cell of negativity toward yourself. If you listen, you lose. You’re imprisoned in the handcuffs of self-doubt, confusion, and fear.
So what do you do?
Silence the voice.
And counter it with the greatest weapon in your self-worth arsenal: kindness to yourself.
Counter With Kindness
When that viperous voice begins to snake its way inside your brain, make the active and assertive choice to counter it with kindness.
Stop with the damaging self-talk. Recognize that whisper and refuse to hear its complaints. Silence the voice, shake off the attack and move toward kindness.
But what really is kindness? It the quality of being generous, caring, and helpful toward others. Kindness is active. It is doing and caring and loving others.
Kindness is synonymous with love. The Hebrew term, hesed, is not directly translatable, but has been transcribed as “loving kindness.” Christianity’s loving kindness is used to express God’s love for humanity. Symbiotically, people are mandated to express this deep, abiding, loyal, and merciful love to each other — especially in committed relationships.
In Buddhism, metta is translated as benevolence, good-will, and loving kindness. Metta meditation is an awareness practice that evokes loving kindness, both toward the self as well as toward others. “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.” These phrases are uttered, reflected on, and connected first to the self, then outward to others.
Loving kindness is ideal in our relationships with others. It lets us engage with caring concern and open generosity. It pushes us to see others in the best possible light — despite their flaws and failings.
In times of weakness, criticism, and negativity, we can also direct the insight, compassion, and mercy of loving kindness toward our own worthy selves.
Your inner self-critic can be quieted when you use loving kindness on yourself. Stopping the chronic, negative self-talk will help you move away from self-doubt, guilt, and blame. Silencing the harsh voice can let you hear a new melody of appreciation and acceptance.
Remembering the following three steps can help you practice lovingkindness toward yourself. Start with one. Then adopt two. Eventually, all three can become part of your personal loving kindness practice.
1. Think With Kindness
When thinking of yourself, work towards making the majority of your thoughts positive (or at least neutral), helpful, or encouraging. What we believe about ourselves affects every layer of our lives. Our self-image touches every facet of our lives and colours all our relationships — especially the one we have with ourselves.
We are all far from perfect, and we are all works in progress. However, we must believe in ourselves and in our ability to persevere, learn, and improve.
When negative self-talk shouts in your head, quiet it with kinder, gentler thoughts of yourself, like:
- I believe in my abilities to get everything organized and managed today.
- I’m working to pay more attention to my diet and fitness level.
- This is a frazzled moment, but I can recover and get back on track.
- I’ve been through a lot and will give myself time to regroup.
- I’m a (good, kind, loving, thoughtful, generous, intelligent, fun) person.
- I am worthy of my own love.
2. Speak With Kindness
It’s easy to fall into bad habits of sarcasm, blame, and self-deprecation. Our culture and our media even seem to promote these habits — humour that denigrates the self and others is a staple of late-night talk shows. And let’s not even talk about the news…
Speaking about yourself with kindness also involves what you say aloud to yourself, and what you say and accept to and from others. Avoid verbally abusing yourself, and don’t allow others to abuse you either.
Here are some ways in which you can start doing exactly that:
- Talk about your skills and abilities in an honest and straightforward manner.
- Avoid excessive self-deprecation and sarcasm.
- Accept compliments with a gracious ‘thank you’, and without qualifying or negating or deflecting them.
- Don’t be afraid to reveal your expertise. Your areas of mastery are worthy of recognition and respect.
- Compliment yourself out loud.
- Give yourself verbal kudos and praise — for your accomplishments, for work well done, for becoming your better, emerging self.
- Let others speak well of you and accept their praise.
- Keep and maintain a ‘good things’ journal where you record and revisit your accomplishments, goals, and ways you make yourself and the world better.
3. Act With Kindness
You’re the only you you’ve got. You need to look to yourself to take care of yourself. In your busy life, it’s vital that you treat yourself kindly — to look after yourself with the same care, kindness, and generosity you give to those you love.
Love yourself by being kind to yourself. Engage in radical self-kindness. When you do, you’ll be better equipped to share and spread the same lovingkindness to others.
Self-love starts with our actions and habits. It’s about conducting acts that improve our body and state of mind, like:
- Take care of your health: Eat clean. Buy fresh, local, organic ingredients. Keep your fridge stocked with healthy food. Feed yourself like you love yourself.
- Be as fit as you can manage: Go for a walk. Do HIIT (high-intensity interval training). Stretch. Try yoga. Hire a personal trainer to show you how to improve. Lift weights. Join a class. Go to a hiking MeetUp. Change up your workout. Pick up a new sport. Join a team. Book time for your fitness activity.
- Sleep well: Close down Netflix and go to bed. Meditate or pray before bedtime. Put your tech aside. Read a book. Read to your kids. Practice breathing. Stretch. Use quality bed linens. Buy a new pillow. Avoid alcohol.
- Nourish your mind: Pray. Meditate. Sit in silent contemplation. Visit a sacred spot. Dance or sing. Create. Take a class on divinity, faith, or practice.
- Treat yourself: Take yourself out — lunch, window shopping, live music. Have a mini spa day. Plan a short trip. Take the time to meet up with a fun friend. Have a beautiful dinner out. Go to the ocean or mountains. Be your own honoured guest.
- Learn something new: Get out of your zone of familiarity. Take up knot-tying, or ink and pen drawing. Volunteer. Teach a skill. Take a class. Jump into a hobby you’ve always wanted to pursue. Read a classic. Get a tutor. Be brave.
Be Kind to the Person You Are
Be endlessly, lovingly kind to yourself.
Practice the art of loving kindness, and adopt its deep, meaningful love for yourself. Treating yourself with love, loyalty, caring, compassion, and generosity will silence your self-critic, solidify your positive self-image, and allow you to share the best of you with yourself — and with the world.
- Think about yourself with kindness.
- Speak about yourself with kindness.
- Treat yourself with kindness.
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