“We tend to think that being hard on ourselves will make us strong. But it is cherishing ourselves that gives us strength.” ~ Julia Cameron I believe one of the most tragic human frailties is our tendency to be too hard on ourselves. In this complex, seemingly have-it-all world, a harsh or negative self-attitude can easily creep in. It can disempower the way we think, talk about ourselves and show-up. And unless the people close to us have the awareness and honesty to give us a gentle nudge, chances are that being way tougher on ourselves than anyone else, gets to be our lifelong habit. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t challenge ourselves to become a better person., or to question our actions – being complacent is detrimental to our personal, professional and spiritual growth. I’m talking about just being able to show ourselves the kindness we deserve.
How do we know if we’re being too hard on ourselves? In my experience, there a few classic signs to look out for: critical or damning self-talk – characterised by lots of ‘shoulds’; continually saying ‘yes’ to others when you really want to say ‘no’; setting unrealistic goals or high standards that take the fun out of life and just make you a slave to your own expectations; not giving yourself enough play, rest or time-alone; or comparing yourself to others as a way of having self-worth. Remember that the one-and-only lifetime relationship we’re ever guaranteed of having, is the one we have with ourself. Before we’re able to give (or receive) kindness from others, we have to know how to be kind towards ourselves first. And self-compassion is a well-researched pre-requisite for all happy and successful relationships.
Using the Power of Intention Making the shift from harshness to kindness might sound simple, but for most of us, its not so easy. We have to be prepared to make kindness our priority. It’s something that we need to work with gently and diligently for a period of time, until it becomes a new habit.
Setting a clear intention to be kinder, repeated sincerely and daily like a personal mantra, is a powerful place to start. It could be something simple like: ‘kindness is my choice’ or ‘I choose to be kind to myself.’ Working over time, being patient as we go, an intention will slowly open-up subtle shifts in our thinking and behaving. When we are kind to ourselves, we’re able to: accept our short-comings – without blaming or needing to fix – knowing we’re just human! show gratitude for the blessings, gifts and talents we have; give ourselves regular play, rest and self-time; and set goals that stretch our growth and inspire us to enjoy ourselves too. If you need to rekindle your self-compassion and kindness, it might begin with giving yourself some reflective time-out at an upcoming Relax and Renew Day Retreat. The day includes yoga and meditation practice as well as coaching and reflection activities, to focus on what matters most to you.
Choosing kindness over the course of our life dissolves our sense of disconnection and separateness. As we experience a deeper appreciation for and connection with ourselves, we find a natural compassion and heartfelt connection arises with all others. By cherishing ourselves, we find our inner strength. May you be kind and happy, Natalie
Natalie Snooke is the founder of Momentum Coaching & Yoga, established in 2007. She is a committed coach, teacher, yogi and meditator with a mission to inspire others to live more consciously, and make the world a better place.