6 Ways You Can Practice Self-Kindness
You deserve as much love, kindness, and compassion as anyone else in the universe.
I shared an earlier post on 45 acts of kindness you can practice towards others, and truth is, World Kindness Day is about self-kindness as well. True empathy for others starts with kindness and compassion for yourself.
Self-kindness can come easily and naturally to many, but not everyone – and it can be especially difficult for those suffering through depression, anxiety, self-doubt or innate fear.
“I’ll be nice to myself when...”
“I’ll relax when…”
“I’ll take care of myself when…”
These are all excuses we make when we don’t wholeheartedly believe that we deserve the kind of kindness that we exude towards others.
I say this again in the most endearing way possible…
You are not an exception. You deserve as much love, kindness, and compassion as anyone else in the universe.
Feeling like you don’t deserve the same love and compassion often comes down to years of repeating false beliefs we have about ourselves.
If you’re feeling restless, anxious, worn-down, burnt out or depleted… chances are you could use a little more self-kindness in your life.
1. Start by changing the voice in your head
As I know that simply staying, “you’re worth it!” is not going to change these beliefs overnight, let’s try something that may feel different and uncomfortable – you only need to commit to it for 30 minutes. That’s it.
The below exercise can be done in just a few minutes, but I recommend committing to listening to this voice after the exercise so you can move forward with some additional acts of self-kindness and compassion.
Close your eyes and imagine you’re in a big beautiful room with a peaceful white light, brightening up the whole space. It’s a safe space, free of judgment, and the only two people there are you and [someone who loves & accepts you – your mother, father, most loving best friend, your future self].
Whoever this person is, they’re on your team. They’re rooting for you and not against you. Let them tell you whatever it is you need to hear. They might tell you that you deserve love and pure happiness, they might give you a hug and tell you that things are going to be okay (I like to pretend my future self is comin’ in hot and telling me that “it seems hard now, but I’ve been there and I know you’re going to get through it and come out stronger). Whatever it is you need to hear, let this loving person extend some kindness to you in your thoughts.
Whenever you’re going through a hard time and find your inner voice criticizing you, try to close your eyes and imagine this person speaking to you in a loving, nurturing way.
2. Take time to be grateful for yourself
I am the biggest advocate of taking time to be grateful and I am in love with my Five Minute Journal. While most of us will write down external things or experiences we’re grateful for, it can be extremely healing, motivating and beneficial to turn that focus inward and write down a few things you’re grateful for about yourself.
Maybe you’re grateful for taking the time to say no & rest when you needed it, maybe you’re grateful for getting up early and taking care of your body via a workout, maybe you’re grateful that you were mindful and made one healthy food swap today.
The beauty of the Five Minute Journal is that it takes just that – five minutes – and it’s an incredible way of incorporating a little more self-kindness into your day. Don’t have one? You can buy one here – or you can buy a nice notebook that you’ll keep just for the purpose of writing down and reflecting at the beginning or end of the day.
3. Practice Mindfulness
When we’re barraged with negative self-talk, we’re usually playing these false beliefs through negative storylines in our heads over and over again so often that we don’t even realize it.
As therapist Allison Abrams shares, this negative self-talk is usually somewhere along the lines of, “You always say such stupid things. You don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why nobody likes you,” and so on. This process of over-identification, giving in to our internal critic, is usually accompanied by its counterpart, negative rumination. Mindfulness, or the state of non-judgmental awareness, is the antidote to both.
Mindfulness can be practiced in endless ways. Here’s one way you can practice mindfulness:
Sit in a comfortable chair, with your eyes closed or resting on a still object (preferably not your computer or to-do list). Start to tune into your senses – what do you smell, hear, taste? Feel your feet on the ground. What else do you physically feel? Where in your body do you feel pain? Where do you feel relaxed?
Practicing this kind of mindfulness can help re-center to the here and now and calm some of the brain clutter [that we all have] so we can tune-in to our needs more clearly.
4. Take a Break When You Need It
You can do anything but not everything. Even superheroes need a break sometimes. Listen to your body and your soul and take a break when you need it. It might be a 5-minute break in the middle of the day to sit in silence or go for a walk, a 15-minute break away from your screen to meditate, or a 1-minute break to do some conscious deep breathing.
It’s okay to say no and it’s okay to take an entire night off if you’re in need of a little reviving “me-time”.
5. …And Push Yourself When You Can
Next time you find yourself not wanting to do something (taking a class, asking for a promotion, trying a new workout, going out to a new social setting, etc.), take a few moments to tune inwards and ask yourself why. If the reason is because you honestly just need time to rest, then take it.
But if you find yourself answering, “I just don’t want to.” your inner critic may be harboring some negative thoughts.
Come back to that nurturing voice and let it tell you whatever you need to hear. You’re strong, and you’re capable because you’re brave. You deserve this. You’ve done this before and you can do this again. Whatever you need to hear, let this voice speak to you in the kindest, most honest & loving way possible.
6. Talk with a supportive therapist, counselor, or coach
I mentioned earlier that feeling like you don’t deserve the same love and compassion often comes down to years of repeating false beliefs we have about ourselves. While I hope this piece as a whole helps you instill more self-kindness into your day-to-day, false beliefs about ourselves can take time and effort to work through; a supportive and non-judgmental therapist can help you understand where these false beliefs are coming from and help you understand your true self.
I know from personal experience that it can take a lot of time, work, and patience; it can be a messy thing to figure out on your own and the right therapist will help. None of us are immune to stress, we all process stress in different ways, and there’s absolutely no shame in speaking with someone who can help you navigate it all in order to live your happiest, most fulfilling life.