Self-care starts with self-love, and that means being kind to yourself.
Oscar Wilde said it best: “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong journey.” Too bad, we’re often shown examples of how to love someone or something else – a sibling, a pet, an elderly relative – but not guided to love oneself. Rooted in all of this is a common blind spot: that of practising self-kindness.
We’re quick to offer a loved one solace, a listening ear but when it comes to our own happiness and needs, the motivation wanes, and something or someone else becomes more important. As a result, our needs are deprioritised, our wellbeing compromised and we carry on the vicious cycle of ignoring our own happiness.
So the next time you catch yourself flagrantly ignoring what you really want, remember that being kind to yourself is not the same as being selfish, it’s actually about wanting what’s best for you.
Say no without guilt
Your life is your own and no one else’s, so why then do so many of us feel torn and disconnected to our deepest needs and desires.
Gaining someone’s approval should never be at the cost of your own needs and while saying yes to everything is easier than sitting with the uncomfortability saying no creates, it’s also called personal growth.
Christine Carter, a senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley, California puts it simply: “saying “yes” when we mean “no” is a recipe for overwhelm and exhaustion.” She further illustrates how saying yes to everything means you’re saying no to something you actually need.
So the next you’re feeling at wit’s end, allow yourself to say no, kindly, firmly and with love. Some graceful ways to employ: “I’ll love to help you finish your proposal, let’s book in 45 minutes before the end of the week to do it together”, “I appreciate the invitation but I won’t be able to make it. Thank you for including me.”
Write yourself a love letter
”If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not capable of developing compassion for others.”
Wise words by the Dalai Lama and one we all should heed. Writing yourself a love letter is a reminder of why we matter and an important self-affirmation exercise. Don’t be shy, list down all the things you love about yourself. From the challenges you’ve overcome, the dreams you hold, quote real life scenarios and bask in your own self-praise. Fight the urge to see this as an indulgent ego exercise but instead a self-appraisal of everything lovable about you and a reminder that you are worthy, you are enough.
We’ve all screwed up. That awful break-up, the time you lost your temper at a colleague. Here’s the deal, we’re imperfect beings but you’re not going to get far pointing the finger back at yourself incessantly.
Rather, find the courage to vocalise the mistake, sit with the emotions regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you feel, identify lessons to learn from it and focus on finding a way to make amends.
Forgiving oneself is an important life lesson, one you’ll face more than once in your life – so it makes sense deal with it gracefully and gently with the goal of growing from it.
Check how you speak to yourself
If we watch what we say to our friends, colleagues and loved ones, why then don’t we monitor how we talk to ourselves.
Cultivating a nurturing inner voice may sound cheesy but talking to yourself using kind words is a kindness we should extend to ourselves, and not just others.
Try imagining it’s a young child you’re speaking to who has accidentally broken a vase. Would you immediately reprimand him/her, or make an effort to reassure him/her that real harm was done? By talking to yourself in a more compassionate manner, you’re extending yourself a dose of empathy.
Ask how you are doing
Make a habit of checking in on how you’re doing. And not just when it comes to stressful situations but on the every day scenarios. Making this a practice is one way to boost your well-being and can be as simple as asking yourself the following: “What’s wrong, what’s right or good or bad or unsettling or uncomfortable?” and working through the answers while identifying the real issues and triggers. After a while being this specific with your feelings will help you respond and react with more clarity and focus.
Celebrate failures as successes
Not everything you set out to do will succeed. Rather than wallow in self-pity, be kind to yourself and tell yourself that it will all be okay in the end. Recall the challenges you’ve overcome and look objectively at how you could have avoided failure and the lessons you want to employ in the future. Having a plan to achieve success won’t just be a distraction, it’ll be a way to take action.
A version of this article first appeared on www.herworld.com.