how to be kind to yourself

by Kate Shapland

Kindness is a word that crops up regularly on social media to remind us to spread the love. But do we really need to be reminded to be kind to anyone – let alone ourselves? Where self kindness goes I think many of us do, yes. If you’ve read the book Eat, Pray, Love you’ll probably remember the passage where the author recalls seeing herself in a mirror as she rushed through the reception area of her office and thinking she was seeing someone she knew, not herself.

As she hurtled through her daily life the author had stopped seeing herself and – as she points out in her book – we should “never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognised yourself as a friend, and in order to see that person again you have to be kind to yourself”.

Could 2021 be the year we finally stop reminding ourselves that kindness – to all including our good selves – is essential, not a luxury? Not used to doing it? Try these for size:

How To Be Kind To Yourself

1. Carve out time for yourself – every day, doing something that brings you joy. Draw, write, make something, play a musical instrument, stare at the stars – anything that brings happiness and allows you a bit of ‘me time’.

2. Give yourself recognition – we’re quick to acknowledge the achievements of others, but often slow to acknowledge our own. Time to become aware of your own achievements and give yourself recognition. Here’s a challenge: next time you do something you’re proud of, stop for a minute and think about it. Then give yourself a silent pat on the back and relish the achievement. You could even say “kudos to me” under your breath.

3. Cultivate your inner advocate – most of us are all too familiar with the inner critic. Well it’s time to bring your inner critic to meet your inner advocate.  And who exactly is this inner advocate? It’s the other voice in your head – the one that defends you. When your inner critic comes at you with ridicule and scorn, your inner advocate jumps in and presents arguments on your behalf.

Be kind to yourself by cultivating your inner advocate. (Mine is dressed head to toe in Chanel).

4. Forgive yourself – we all mess up: perhaps you’ve done something you’re not proud of, or you failed to stand up for yourself and let someone else get the better of you. You might have missed a great opportunity because you got scared, or failed to follow through on an important goal. Whatever it is, stop feeling it and blaming yourself. Show yourself some kindness, resolve to do better from now on, and forgive yourself.

5. Take good care of yourself – get enough sleep, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and get some form of exercise on a regular basis. In addition, choose a way to release stress and look after your appearance.

6. Respect yourself – value yourself for who you are, and don’t let others dictate your value. This is about trusting yourself, thinking for yourself, forming your own opinions, and making your own decisions. In addition, it’s refusing to compare yourself to others.

Self-respect is about keeping your promises to yourself too and following through on what you tell yourself that you’re going to do. Be kind to yourself by deeply respecting yourself.

7. Treat yourself – not necessarily in the form of shopping therapy, but if you see something you really want, treat yourself. If it’s expensive, save up for it. You don’t have to wait for someone else to give it to you as a gift. Give it to yourself. (Bonus points if you get the shop to gift wrap it for you).

8. Soothe yourself – after a tough day. If it was one of those days when things went wrong, be kind to yourself by soaking a hot bath with some scented oil. Or make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, add marshmallows to it (yes, really) and then lie down on the sofa with a book.

9. Remind yourself of your good qualities – okay, you may not have the ‘ideal’ body type (whatever that is), but you have incredible thick, shiny hair; numbers isn’t your thing, but creating something out of nothing in the most resourceful way is, and so on. We all have good qualities. Keep reminding yourself what yours are.

10. Tell yourself, “I am enough” – daily. We all have times in our lives when we think we’re not good looking enough, or clever enough, or strong enough to get what we want. So stop that self-talk and replace it with “I’m enough just as I am”, “I deserve to be happy” and “nothing has to make me feel worthy, I’m enough already”.

11. Honour your dreams – that’s what people who respect and are kind to themselves do. They don’t downplay their dreams by labelling them silly fantasies; they take their dreams seriously by turning them into goals, and creating a plan for achieving those goals.

12. Find the sweet spot between acceptance & striving – part of being kind to yourself is acknowledging your potential. As I mentioned above, the secret is to know what you want and go after it. If you’re never being satisfied with where you are, or with what you have achieved in life, you’re not being kind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself by finding the sweet spot between being happy with who you are, while taking action to become even better.

14. Stop trying to be perfect – people who set a standard of perfection for themselves are setting themselves up for failure. Perfection is unachievable – actually, I always say perfection is your perception. Can you think of anything more unkind than making success impossible for yourself?

Instead of setting a standard of ‘perfection’ for yourself, aim to improve, one step at a time.

15. Show yourself compassion – the best way to do this for yourself is to imagine that someone you love is feeling hurt. Consider what you would say to them, how you would treat and reassure them, how you would make them feel cared for a loved. Now do that for yourself.