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Episode 090: Can’t Love Yourself? Practice Being Kind

For years I use to teach the common advice that you need to love yourself. And then I realized that the key to loving myself was to practice being kind to myself one act at a time.

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Transcript:

Hello, my friends. I am excited to be back and recording with you. We’ve done a little traveling, actually headed over to New York and Boston, so we’ve toured the east coast a little bit, spent some time with some family and friends. It’s been an awesome way to spend the summer, and I’m excited to be back and recording episode 90 and today we’re going to be talking about the concept of practicing being kind.

A lot of times we hear common wisdom, we’ve talked about this in the past, that if you’re trying to get rid of your inner critic or trying to be less stressed or less overwhelmed, you’re supposed to love yourself. And if you can’t love yourself, no one can love yourself, and there are a thousand pithy sayings around loving yourself.

But when you start unpacking what it means to love yourself, it is counter to everything else we’ve been taught since we were little kids. You know, our whole lives, we have been taught that we can be better. There’s a right way and a wrong way, that we should constantly be striving that we should be pushing ourselves to the next level and you can always build more strength, and you can always get better.

And so it’s a counterintuitive message that I’m supposed to love myself, but yet I’m not okay as I am. How can I love myself and accept how I am and still be striving to be a better person? And that message is whoo, hard to wrap your head around. So I have stopped saying we all need to love ourselves and just started with the concept of being kind, that we need to be more kind to ourselves and that is a daily task.

So when I think about the idea of loving myself, that’s like a huge general concept, that’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got to love myself.” But when I think about practicing being kind, that’s a little more challenging to think on a day to day basis; I need to practice just being kind to myself. And I can still challenge myself. I can still step up my game. I can still try to be growing and striving and be kind to myself. And that a-ha for me was mind-blowing, to recognize that I can be striving and pushing and be the best me possible and be kind to myself because my whole life I had figured out that for me to be striving and developing and getting better I needed to be shaming and belittling myself.

So what do I mean by practicing being kind? You’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what this means,” but I want you to think about it. I want you to think about your day so far. How many times have you criticized yourself? How many times have you said I should put the laundry in? I should have driven faster to work. I shouldn’t have left so late. I shouldn’t have eaten that cookie. I should have had a salad at lunch. I should have finished that report before I left for the day. We do it all the time. We should all the time.

We’re constantly reminding ourselves of where we fall short, but being kind is saying, “Oh, I’m going to have that salad because I feel better when I eat my veggies,” or “Yep, I had that cookie, and it tasted great. I enjoyed every bite,” or “I ran out of time today. That just wasn’t in the day to get that report done. I’ll do it first thing in the morning,” so we can be kind to ourselves and be pushing ourselves to be better.

We practice kindness all the time to other people. You know, we let people cut in line, we hug our kids, we talk kindly to our spouse. We give people a pass all the time, but we don’t give ourselves a pass, and so today I want you to think about ways you are kind to yourself. When you brush your teeth, reframe that, that you are kind to yourself. You’re giving yourself the love of taking care of your teeth. It’s not checking another thing off the to-do list. Instead, it’s I’m practicing kindness.

When I get my cup of coffee in the morning, and I make the coffee, it’s one of my favorite things to do in the morning is make coffee, I know it sounds weird, but it’s one of my favorite things. One of my favorite morning rituals is making coffee. When I make coffee every morning, that’s a kindness I’d give to myself. The warm cup, My animals are around, the house is quiet. It’s just one of my favorite times, and I can soak that in as a kindness to myself.

And those little patterns of recognizing when you take the stairs versus the elevator. You’re kind to yourself,  when you take the elevator instead of the stairs because you hurt your knee, you are being kind to yourself. You are not a loser who’s taking the elevator. You are practicing kindness.

So to start rephrasing things in your life because I believe how we talk to ourselves is key to how we see the world. So a personal example of this and how I see it playing out in my life. I got back from vacation on Thursday, and then I hurt my back, and I’ve been having some stomach issues, and so I’ve kind of took the weekend off to rest and regroup and try to figure out what’s going on with myself.

And yesterday I was beating myself up for being lazy. I haven’t worked out. I haven’t worked. I’ve been on vacation, and I’m sitting around watching TV and, “You’re such a loser,” was the constant message in my head. And then I walked upstairs to feed the cats, and I feed the cats and I’m like, “You’re such a loser. You should have put away all the cat dishes. But no, they’re just sitting here.” I walk into my bedroom to grab a sweater, and I’m like, “Your closet is a mess. I can’t believe you haven’t cleaned up your closet.  I walk past the bathroom and,think to myself, “Oh, the bathroom is such a pit. You haven’t even put away your suitcase from traveling. You are so behind.” And I recognize as I walked down the stairs and was critical of myself because my knees hurt and my back hurt, that I recognized how mean I was to myself just in that two minute time that I was paying attention and if I really was honest, most of yesterday I probably talked to myself a lot like that.

And it was like, “Wait a minute, you are not being kind to yourself. You were just harassing yourself for no reason.” And so to recognize, wait a minute, I am taking this time because my body is screaming that it needs a break and I’m listening to my body and I’m giving it a break. I’m also going to challenge myself and do some yoga and be kind and stretch myself out because that may be why my knees are hurting. I’m also going to make sure that I eat right tonight so my stomach doesn’t hurt as much because coming off vacation, that may be why it’s bothering me. So I can practice kindness in little tiny ways throughout the day.

And notice how often I’m just critical at myself, just for the sake of being critical. It isn’t providing me with anything. It isn’t motivating me to do anything. It’s just being critical.

So that’s my challenge to you in this next week. This is one of those concepts that sounds so simple. “Duh. I know I’m supposed to practice being kind,” you might be saying to yourself, because I probably would be saying it to myself if I was listening. But when you really break it down and really start thinking and listening to yourself talk and how much your monger comes out in his belittling of you in times of stress, in times of challenge to recognize, wait a minute, what can I do right now that would be kind for myself and sometimes when you ask yourself that question, the answer might surprise you.

Like I said, maybe you will get the salad because you need to eat more vegetables. Maybe you will work out even though your back hurts because you need to do some stretching. Being kind doesn’t mean you always give yourself a pass. Being kind means, you do what’s best for you. So I love the idea of practicing being kind because it really keeps my monger and my BFF in check because our biggest fan is always, always kind.

The one thing you can count on her is to be kind, and so when I know that I need to make a decision and I don’t know which way to go and I’m jumping between the monger and the BFF, I know that I can simply just say to myself, “I’m going to practice being kind here. What’s the kindest decision for myself?”

And that’s the show. Thanks for listening. The Happiness Hacks podcast comes out every week. If you have any questions, please email me, NancyJane@Live-Happier.com, or you can follow me on Instagram @Nancyjane_livehappier. And until next time, here’s to living happier.

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