Research shows that being kind to ourselves reduces stress, improves our immune system, and increases our sense of well-being and happiness. Sometimes it is easier to show kindness to others than to ourselves, yet we need to nurture ourselves so that we can nurture others. Jesus asked us to love others as we love ourselves, not before we love ourselves or instead of loving ourselves.
So how do we should kindness to ourselves?
We begin by speaking words of love to and about ourselves, not in a prideful way but in a gentle, compassionate way. We think lovingly about ourselves. We forgive ourselves. We celebrate our victories and learn from our mistakes. We are patient with ourselves, remembering that we’re a work in progress.
Yesterday I attended a funeral for a relative. In the past, because some members of that particular family have been rude and unkind to me, I made a plan. I decided to stay as long as the family was respectful to me and others and to leave when and if they were not. I mentally set a boundary on those things I would and would not tolerate from family members.
I entered the gathering with a kind and loving attitude towards myself and others. I spoke compassionately to the family members who had lost their loved one. I honored and respected older family members, even those who can be unkind. As the day progressed, I was delighted to discover that kindness prevailed.
For years I allowed that family to belittle me and my parents. Now, I have set healthy boundaries. I love them when they allow me to do so and leave when they do not. For years I attempted to win their love by tolerating their inappropriate behavior, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not win their approval. I have learned that by showing kindness to myself, I am better able to love them and can recognize how to handle difficult situations—even if I need to leave to find peace. I have discovered that they respect me more when I respect myself more.
In addition to setting healthy boundaries, we need to treat our bodies with kindness. Eating nutritious foods and getting needed sleep are ways that we show our love for our precious bodies. You show kindness to yourself every time you breathe deeply, go on a walk, enjoy nature, and think loving thoughts about yourself and others.
Kindness is contagious. The more kindness you show yourself, the more kindness you will radiate to others. As you show kindness to others, often that kindness will return to you—multiplied.
As we show kindness to ourselves, we become empowered to live life fully and joyfully. We no longer think of ourselves as victims but as victors. We not are vain or arrogant, but instead we treat ourselves with respect and gentleness, and by so doing, can share that love with others.
Today, be kind to yourself. Think or say “I love you” when you look in the mirror. Celebrate your body exactly as it is. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to learn from them. One of my favorite authors, Leo Buscalia said, “Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.”
© Carol Brown