UPDATE: This post was originally published in 2011. Cyndi Briggs's blog, The Sophia Project, is no longer active, but the main point of this post is still very valid.
It's easier to be kind to others than to ourselves
Most of us are kind to others most of the time. Most of us will go out of our way to be kind to animals, children, and friends in need…maybe even strangers in need. I don't know about you, but I have a bad habit of putting everything and everyone else first and forgetting that as a steward of my own life, I have an obligation to be as kind to myself as I am to others. Why does this seem so hard? Why does our culture — as self-indulgent as it is — make caring for ourselves seem selfish?
A fabulous post called “I believe…” by Cyndi Briggs on her blog this morning smacked me right between the eyes, and if you need to hear this, I hope it smacks you where you need it too:
There is no greater relationship than the one you have with yourself, and I believe in cultivating that relationship daily. I believe self-nurturance and compassion for self are fundamental to a well society and not just some namby-pamby prettytalk. Compassion is strength in action, and kindness takes a whole lot more courage than violence. I’m committed to treating myself in a loving manner, trusting my instincts, honoring my intuition, and protecting myself from people who choose to be toxic. I will live this way for the rest of my life.
You tell it, Sister!
How can you help others if you don't take care of yourself?
If you're finding it difficult to nurture yourself, remember what they tell you every time you hear the safety instructions on an airplane: “In case of a loss in cabin pressure, the oxygen masks will drop down. You should secure your own first before assisting children or other persons.” We can't be effective at helping others unless we take care of ourselves, and what is this if not an important form of kindness?
So what might kindness to ourselves LOOK like?
As with any important connection, Connection with Self starts with paying attention. Pay attention to how you feel, how you look, and what your own “still small voice” is telling you about things and people you encounter in your day-to-day life. Pay attention to fatigue and hunger and thirst — both physical and spiritual. And here's the hard one…take the time to pamper yourself on more than an occasional basis. It's okay to soak in the tub and read a book. It's okay to take a walk in a peaceful place. It's okay to PLAY! Sure, there are a million things waiting to be done when you return, but you'll be recharged and able to do them more effectively and efficiently.
And yes, this sermon is as much for myself as it is for you, dear reader. How can you be more kind to yourself this week? Please share your own self-kindness tips in the Comments below!
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