Growing up we learn all sorts of lessons from our parents, teachers, friends and loved ones. One of those lessons is about random acts of kindness and using kind words when speaking to others. We all remember being kids and learning to “be kind to one another.” We hear quotes like, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Kindness is valued and expected and often the measure of a good friend, partner, or boss. One of the things that strikes me the most as I sit with individuals in counseling, and as I reflect on my own life, is that many of us are great at being kind to others, while internally criticizing ourselves.
So often in counseling one of the questions that we ask clients is, “If your friend were in your shoes, would you speak to them the way you speak to yourself?” The answer, almost always, is of course not! The client responds with something like, “I would tell them they are working hard. Failure is a part of learning and growing, and I would remind them of their strengths.” One of the questions I wrestle with is why is it so much harder for us to show ourselves kindness than it is to show others kindness? What would it be like if we taught children about kindness in way that brings to light that kindness applies to everyone – including ourselves? We, ourselves, are also worthy of kind words, kind thoughts and kind actions. Self-care is a great example of how we can show kindness to ourselves. Venture out on a nature trail, read that book collecting dust on the shelf, or order your favorite latte – just relax! Do something for YOU.
We are our own worst critics, and sadly that inner critic often keeps us from believing in ourselves, giving ourselves grace when we are going through a rough time, or recognizing that we are on a journey – and it’s okay that we haven’t arrived yet. The way you talk to yourself matters. And my hope and prayer is that we learn to use kind words when we describe others. However, we also need to use kind words toward ourselves in times of struggle, stress, and inevitable setbacks.
All of us have negative thoughts about ourselves from time-to-time. The goal isn’t to stop those thoughts completely or beat ourselves up over it, but rather to recognize them and call to attention what is happening. So next time you think to yourself, “I’m not enough” or “I’m not wanted,” pause, take a second, breathe, and then remember one thing you love about yourself. Your kindness, your creativity, your passion, whatever it may be. You matter; you are loved – and you are worthy of kindness too.