What is kindness?
What comes to your mind when you think of the word “kind”? What does kindness mean to you?
When I first think of the word kind, I think of action - kind actions done to help others. When people help the homeless or other groups. When people pick up litter in the park. When people hold the door open for someone when entering a building. Or when someone lets another car come into their lane while driving. It’s the kind action a nurse takes whenever taking care of his/her patient. It’s the nice words of encouragement we say to each other.
And all of this is really wonderful and worthy of being associated with the word kind.
But how often do we think of ourselves as kind? We do a lot of kind things for others, but do we consider ourselves as a kind person? If you do, that’s wonderful and please keep it up. But for so many of us, we are so critical of ourselves that we don’t even allow ourselves to think of ourselves as kind. We say, “oh, I wasn’t kind that time when xyz happened” or “There are others who are kind but I do my best to be kind”. We have some variation of that statement in our minds. Why? Because we have really high standards of what can be considered kind. Or thinking we are being humble, we never give ourselves the acknowledgement. This has certainly been my case where I did not see myself as a kind person because all I could see was the times that I had been less than kind.
But what if we began to look at ourself as a kind person - that would be a very kind thing to do. We would recognize and notice all the kind things we've done or said or thought.
A First Step In Cultivating Kindness
Starting there would be a wonderful first step in cultivating kindness towards others - considering yourself a kind person.
Now what exactly does it mean to be a kind person?
After you recognize that you are indeed a kind person, it is time to cultivate more kindness towards yourself.
One of the ways to do this is to say encouraging words to yourself. If you are feeling down you can be kind to yourself and say to yourself, “It’s okay to feel down right now. I am here for you.” If you are faced with doubt about yourself, remind yourself why and how you have demonstrated in the past that you can do it. Say to yourself, “You can do it. I believe in you. No matter how this has turned out in the past, the important thing is that you don’t give up. Keep going”.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees." ⏤ Amelia Earhart
If you find yourself feeling impatience towards yourself, then say to yourself, “It’s alright to feel impatience. It’s just an energy and it will pass.” And then deliberately give yourself more time for whatever you feel impatience about. Imagine yourself to be a gentle cow or a mama sheep and how they take care of their young. Imagine yourself to be just filled with kindness from head to toe. Then say kind words towards yourself.
This is an important practice for cultivating kindness towards ourselves. It is important because it seems like we are our own worst critic and barrage ourselves with non-nourishing, hurtful words. We need to take deliberate actions in changing that. And by doing so, we fuel ourselves with good, encouraging energy which builds our self-confidence and we begin to feel good about ourselves. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more relaxed and when we are more relaxes issues and problems don’t bother us so much. And as a result, we are kind towards others as well.
So today, my invitation to you is to keep “being kind to yourself” in mind. Whenever you hear yourself being impatient, irritated, angry, critical or in any way unkind, bring yourself to some kind thoughts. This may or may not be easy to do since we often are quick to judge ourselves. But with practice, we relax into this way of being. We practice being kind to ourselves and be begin to enjoy being ourselves and even begin to love ourselves more.
So what do you say? Will you be kind to yourself today? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below as I'd love to know.