New Year, New Practice Series (Part 3): Three Ways to be Kinder to Yourself that will Transfer to Others
To start off the new year, I have been emphasizing new habits of practicing kindness in lieu of setting traditional resolutions. The premise being that if you practice kindness to yourself, you will generate enough to transfer to others, with that generosity being the foundation for whatever goals we accomplish throughout the year.
In my last post, I talked about how walking gave me the bandwidth to better cope with COVID-19 and living with my family. However there is life outside of the pandemic (even if it does seem like it is never-ending). Mastering the art of truly being kind to ourselves can be a foreign concept, and the trending topic of self-care is often limited to candles and spa days. But prioritizing how we treat ourselves, should be all encompassing and not limited to just when we have a bad day. Here are three tips on how to extend love to yourself regardless of circumstances.
1. SET BOUNDARIES
It may seem simple to say, but actually implementing boundaries is quite challenging for most of us. Yes, you may need to master the art of saying “no”, but it also involves more work on identifying your values and then holding yourself accountable for defending them.
Practically, that could look like allocating time for you first, before others at the start of your day. Perhaps you wake up and meditate before reaching for your phone and scrolling or answering text messages and emails. Doing so can set the tone for your day, but also let people know that you are worth making a priority and your personal time is just as prized as the relationships you have with them. The same can be said for the graceful decline.
We are not obligated to accept every invitation, suggestion or offer. Nor do we have to give of ourselves when we do not have the desire to. Designating limits is not a sign of disrespect, it is an appreciation for who you are and establishing the confines in which you will allow others to exist in your life—mentally, emotionally and physically. You can be a generous friend, relative and coworker without sacrificing yourself.
2. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
Extending grace to yourself is allowing room to exist authentically as you are. In certain cases, that means that you will make errors in the midst of your pursuits, but don’t hold onto that as a marker of your identity. You truly only need to meet the expectations you set for yourself and sometimes along the way, you will make a misstep. That is part of living a complete life.
In this climate where everyone documents everything and social media dictates what is favorable or not, many people can become overwhelmed by unrealistic assumptions.
Sometimes we don’t want to workout. Even though we consider ourselves healthy, we opt for french fries twice in one day as opposed to a salad. That is okay. It should not be the end of the world for how you view yourself. You are not a failure because of your dietary choices any more than when you reject a promotion because you don’t want to relocate, or you decide to forgo a night out for a personal night in. The more we embrace the unique aspects of who we are, and stop feeling bad or apologizing for them, the more we begin to appreciate our intricacies. We cannot control what others believe about us, but we have all of the influence on how we view ourselves.
3. CULTIVATE JOY DAILY
A key to being kind is generating positive feelings. One method in doing so is to actualize joy in our existence every day. This takes a bit of self-reflection into what truly makes you feel comfortable and delighted. But once you have discovered those things, it is important to incorporate them into your routine.
Maybe you like trying new foods, so you decide to try a new recipe once per week. You can spend the week preparing—being adventurous by choosing a new place to shop or order from and then enacting your own version of a cookshow.
I find that I am drawn to things from my childhood that gave me great pleasure. So I decided one day to order a hula hoop and proceed to wiggle and swirl to my heart's content for thirty minutes a few days a week. I also bought a scooter and would enthusiastically kick push my way around the neighborhood with my niece leading the way. Both were fun. They gave me something to look forward to, but also joy in my success of actually accomplishing something I had not done in a while. It was invigorating and I was proud of myself for even trying.
When we intentionally extend good will to our own selves, those sentiments can adjacently transfer. While the methods should be strategic they should not neglect our complex and full humanity. That way we are not ignoring the parts of us that need to be nurtured in order to pay it forward. Kindness feels like it should always occur instinctively, when it doesn’t, we could just be reacting to years of indifference about the things that matter to us. Focusing some energy inward can have extrinsic payoff if we first develop a benevolent attitude toward ourselves.
© 2022 Evangeline Lawson