Self Care

5 Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself

November 22, 2018

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Last week was World Kindness Day and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about being kinder … to yourself. This is a topic I feel quite passionate about because this year, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into reconnecting with my self-worth, and a huge part of that effort has been learning to be kinder to myself.

At first, my thoughts turned towards the often repeated advice to “speak to yourself as you would to a child” and while I can appreciate this sentiment, practically it wasn’t enough to get me to where I wanted to go. Instead, I had to look deeper and see if I could dismantle some of the self-limiting beliefs and behaviours that were causing these unkind thoughts in the first place.

I spent a lot of time journaling and reflecting on my feelings (as I often do!) and began to notice a pattern of actions and beliefs that regularly gave voice to my inner mean girl. These are some of the ways I’m challenging her and effectively, learning to be kinder to myself.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will inspire you to be kinder to yourself as well. ❤️

5 Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself

ACCEPT THAT YOU WILL ALWAYS BE LEARNING

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

We’ve all heard this expression before and if you’re anything like me, you may have taken it to heart. Making a mistake once is okay because that’s how we learn, but we should learn quickly and if we make the same mistake twice? An unkind voice from within is quick to remind us that we should have known better.

I’ve often written those words in my journal—“I should have known better”— and I’ve repeated them in my head more times than I could ever count. Every time I’ve given in to an impulsive purchase, or stayed up too late, or said “yes” to more work than I could handle … those words have been there making everything worse, like a rotten cherry on top of an already very bitter dessert.

But lately, I’ve started to push back against this voice. I’ve realised that I’m a human being, beautifully flawed, and it’s okay that learning takes time. As children, we would do math problems over and over, not an act of cruelty (although it may have felt like it at the time!) but because it takes repeated practice to get better.

The same is true in adulthood. Making mistakes—even when they’re seemingly the same ones over and over again—doesn’t mean we’re not learning. In fact, I think it can mean the opposite—especially when you consider that in real life, the variables are always changing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to learn from our mistakes, but accepting that growth can be slow and that there’s no shame in not being “right” all the time is a generous gift of kindness that we can all give to ourselves.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO CHANGE YOUR MIND

I’m not sure why—perhaps it’s a cultural belief that changing your mind equates to failure—but for some reason, many of us like to torture ourselves by sticking with things, long after we realise that they make us unhappy.

I’ve seen this many times in my own life; everything from the seemingly inconsequential (I recently forced myself to continue with a social media challenge I hated) to more significant decisions such as staying in a relationship or a job, long past its expiry date.

Sometimes I know right away that I’ve made a bad decision and other times, it takes me longer to regret my choice, but in either case, I often feel resistance to making a change. It’s as if an inner bully is telling to “toughen up”, reminding me that “I made my bed and now I need to sleep in it”.

But why? What are we trying to prove and who are we trying to impress? Over the years, I’ve been learning that there’s no need to be a martyr; instead, we can treat ourselves with kindness by giving ourselves permission to change our minds.

QUESTION DEADLINES + TIMELINES

While there’s no doubt that setting deadlines and timelines can help us achieve our goals—after all, accountability helps us to move them from “someday dreams” to active pursuits—but for the sake of self-kindness, we must not forget to question them with a critical eye.

If a deadline is causing stress or anxiety, we have to question its value. You might have promised yourself a clean house by Sunday evening—but is it really worth trading much-needed rest or quality time with your family? Is it possible you’re holding on to a self-imposed deadline that doesn’t really need to exist? Could you be kinder to yourself (and more intentional with your time) by moving the goalpost and perhaps better aligning your actions with your values?

The same applies for long-term goals; maybe you’ve told yourself you’ll own your own home by a certain age or you’ll lose a certain amount of weight by the end of the month. If so, you should ask yourself if these deadlines are helping or hurting you. This type of goal setting doesn’t work for everyone and we must be mindful of how we feel; the truth is deadlines are sometimes unnecessary or even downright harsh and questioning them is an essential act of self-care.

ALIGN WITH YOUR ENERGY

This is actually an important lesson I’ve learned from observing my 14-month-old daughter.

Like most children, I’ve noticed her moods and energy levels fluctuate dramatically throughout the day. In the mornings, she’s calm and usually content to sit and play on her own, but after her first nap, she’s more energised and gets bored easily. This is usually when I take her out of the house and we’ll run errands or go to a local park. Then later on, as we get closer to bedtime, she gets fussier so I try and be more flexible with our plans.

Our days revolve around her natural energy and mood levels because it’s easier than trying to override them. Instead of fighting against nature, we choose to go embrace it and go with the flow.

I think most people would consider this common sense, yet I feel as adults we are less likely to take note of our own natural rhythms. Instead of trying to align our daily activities to our energy levels, we try and force ourselves into strict and sometimes arbitrary routines.

For example, I tried for years to become a morning person because I heard from many sources that it would increase my productivity—but despite my best efforts, it never happened. No matter what I tried, it never “clicked” and for a long time, this made me feel really bad about myself.

I viewed my lack of energy in the early hours as a character flaw and I thought if I could only be more disciplined, I could become a better person.

But in recent years, I’ve learned that it much kinder (not to mention more effective) to stop trying to force myself to do something that feels unnatural. Instead, I try to align my actions with my energy levels, working with what feels good for my body and letting go of what doesn’t. (In my case, this means slow mornings and getting more done in the afternoon.😊)

LEARN HOW TO DO NOTHING

First things first, I must give credit where credit is due. This section is inspired by the book The Joy of Doing Nothing by Rachel Jonat. I picked this up on a whim because the title intrigued me and then I was won over by this opening passage:

Doing nothing is a luxurious type of self-care. When we think about luxury or riches, we often gravitate to the material: cars, home, clothing. But time is the ultimate luxury. […] When you take the time to do nothing, you prioritise self-care and realign your time usage with your values.

This passage spoke straight to my heart because truly, I think doing nothing has been demonised in our society. There’s an unspoken expectation that we should always be doing something and if by accident, we find ourselves without something to do, we feel guilty. (On a side note, I think this is why we’re all on our phones so often! It feels uncomfortable to simply do nothing.)

But really, what greater gift could we give ourselves that a few minutes without anything to do—and without the expectation that we should be doing something else? Just a few minutes in time to rest and just be …what could be kinder than that?

If you feel resistance to this idea or would like some tips, I highly recommend getting a copy of The Joy of Doing Nothing for yourself (this is an affiliate Amazon link, which is a way of supporting my blog, but I’m sure you could also find it at your local library!).

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are, of course, countless ways to be kinder to yourself; these are simply a few that have been particularly powerful in my own life. What’s really important is self-compassion: withholding judgement, accepting ourselves as imperfect, and being mindful of our expectations. I encourage you to observe your own thoughts and habits through this lens and to look for opportunities to treat yourself with patience and love.

After all, as the saying goes, a little kindness goes a long way.

As always, thank you so much for reading! And I’m curious—how do you treat yourself with kindness? I’d love to hear your tips and ideas, so please share them below in the comments! x

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  • Great post, Jennifer, and just the reminder I need. I particularly liked your second point about giving yourself permission to change your mind. The ‘sunk cost fallacy’ is strong, often making us continue to do things we’ve already invested significant time, energy or money into – even when it is no longer serving us. Time to let go!

    Thanks for the book recommendation for ‘The Joy of Doing Nothing’. I’ve borrowed the e-book from my library and looking forward to reading.

    • Hi Michelle!

      Thanks so much for pointing out the sunk cost fallacy (I knew there was a term that summed up what I was experiencing but I couldn’t quite think of it!). It’s really amazing how much we’re willing to throw money, etc. after something even when we know it’s not the right thing to do.

      And woohoo, that’s great about the book. I didn’t know you could borrow e-books from libraries so thank you for opening my eyes! I’ll have to see if any of my local libraries have that option.

      Thanks for reading and have a great week! 🙂

  • Morgan Arnold

    Yay I love new blog posts! You mentioned how forcing creativity with the FB challenge brought unhappiness. Well same here! I always compare myself to women around me who have large closets and endless cute outfits. Which makes me think, I need to go shopping more and try more with my outfits. Except I HATE shopping. It puts me in a bad mood and I inevitably seem to pick apart my body in the mirror when trying on new clothes that just aren’t me. I enjoy most of comfortable clothes I already own. A few weeks back I attempted to create varying outfits with what I already had. I found I had a lot to work with already which was actually fun but since then I’ve never even worn any of those “creative” outfits. I don’t really care to be creative that much! Lol I like my favorite jeans, tank tops and one belt. This also hits on your first way to be kinder to yourself. I’ve repeatedly told myself I NEED to be more creative with my outfits throughout the years. I am still learning that my way is okay. Really what it boils down to is I worry about what other people think about me. As always, right?
    Thanks for taking the time to write this out.
    XO
    Morgan

    • Hi Morgan! Thanks so much for sharing your story with me 🙂 And yep, I 100% agree that worrying what people will think is a part of it. I remember a few years ago, I was travelling and I wore the same 3 outfits almost every day and never thought twice about it! But now that I’m home, I sometimes think I need to be more creative too! But really, who cares? And why I am I making my life harder for myself when I don’t need to? We are always learning! 🙈 All the best! x Jen