Posted by Nina Smith 1500 Days Ago
I’ve been reflecting a lot on the nature and impact of kindness this week.
When someone is kind to us, we can have two reactions - we can accept it and soak in the gift, or we can feel uncomfortable - unworthy somehow. How we receive kindness can say a lot about how we were raised and our sense of self.
If raised in an environment where kindness was part of your day, it’s fairly easy to receive kindness fully. However, if kindness was used as a means to an end, we might wonder what the other expects from you in return. If kindness was never practiced, we might either really like it, or be suspicious of it.
One thing I know for sure is that however kindness is perceived from another, the way in which we are kind, or not, to ourselves, plays a huge role in our mental health and thus our resilience. I sometimes do an exercise with clients: to write down every unkind thing they say to themselves in a single day. I ask them to read those aloud. Then I ask them to say those things to me or to a pretend best friend. Example: “I am a good for nothing layabout”, said to me or a friend becomes “You are a good for nothing layabout”. I have noticed how difficult this is for clients to say to me. We say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to someone we care about.
The reason we don’t say those things to people we care about, is we know how much it will hurt them. We understand the damage those words can do. And yet we unwittingly choose to do the same damage to ourselves on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. The way we talk to ourselves has a huge impact on our mental well-being.
Even if what we are saying is partly true (and it’s usually a gross exaggeration) - yelling at ourselves all day will not help in any way to change our behaviour in a positive way. All yelling achieves is to entrench the behaviour and leave one feeling very unhappy.
So I’m wondering if you can try a little experiment: The next time you become aware of feeling unhappy, restless, anxious or depressed - take some time to write down what you are saying to yourself. Then try to practice kindness. So “I’m a good for nothing layabout” might become “I wonder what I can do today that might make me feel useful”. This could be as simple as taking a walk, knitting a square, helping your neighbour - it doesn’t matter. Or it might become “Well although I haven’t finished the ironing or that DIY project, I have managed to phone a friend, make the bed and get dressed today”. Then congratulate yourself and maybe do something nice just for you.
Kindness to ourselves can change so much if practiced consistently. And then a funny thing happens: we begin to accept (and even enjoy) kindness from others without really working at it.