You’ve probably heard the solid biblical guidance “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). There’s no arguing that it’s important to treat others with love and kindness. Generally speaking, most of us adhere to this principle. Well, aside from choice words and fingers we sling from the safety of our cars and behind the anonymous screens of our computers on forums. I’d venture to guess that if you’re reading this article and actually care about your kindness level, you’re likely a rather thoughtful and compassionate human being.
But this post isn’t meant to measure how many doors you’ve held open for passersby or get well cards you’ve sent to your friends and family throughout the years. While those are admirable qualities and unquestionably bump up your brownie points, I’m actually more curious about this:
How kind are you really… to yourself?
I honestly believe it’s easier to be nice to others. And often, the things we say to ourselves, we would never utter out-loud about another person. For example, “Ugh. Why are you still carrying around the baby weight?! You definitely can’t wear a bikini this summer.” Or “Everyone else is pregnant. There must be something wrong with you!” Or “You’re just not good [healthy, smart, pretty, funny, talented, dedicated, etc.] to achieve that goal”.
We are our own worst critics.
I wonder what would be possible for all of us, you and me, if we challenged ourselves for 1 year… 1 month… 1 week… heck, 1 HOUR to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others.
We’re great at giving our friends pep talks, declaring “I love you” to our spouses, saying “yes” to our bosses, and shoveling snowy sidewalks for our neighbors. Of course, all of that is invaluable, but what else could open up in your life if you also took a few minutes to pump yourself up in the morning, utter “I love you” in the mirror (and mean it), make time to pursue a hobby, cook yourself a delicious and healthy meal, say “yes” to a nap, or go outside and do cartwheels just for a laugh?
It all starts in your mind and by beginning to pay attention to the thoughts you’re feeding yourself.
Are you a critic or a caretaker of your dreams? Do you smile at strangers on the street and then come home to judge yourself in the mirror?
I believe you are equally as important as your children, spouse, family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. How you treat yourself matters and influences the capacity for love and appreciation you can give to others. Even on an airplane, they advise you to put on your own oxygen mask first before you assist anyone else.
I recently heard podcast host Christy Wright emphasize that the second most important command Jesus gave us is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) This implies that we must also love ourselves!
I’m not suggesting you be perfect at this overnight. Your brain will offer you limiting beliefs and negative commentary as often as it can. (Believe it or not, this is usually to try to keep you safe and prevent you from stepping out of your comfort zone, by the way.) One of my business mentors simply suggests saying, “No, thank you” whenever you catch yourself going down a negative thought spiral. I also love the strategy of talking to yourself rather than listening to yourself. Instead of listening to the mean girl banter in your mind, tell yourself something that makes you feel good and empowered instead.
I know this can be hard to do, trust me. I’m an innate people-pleaser and self-critic if there ever was one. I need to remind myself over and over to do unto myself as I would do unto others. But, it doesn’t have to be a challenge.
The more consistently you celebrate, appreciate, and love yourself for exactly who you are and all of the gifts you have to offer, the easier and more second nature it will become.
We all think of kindness in relationship to others. Keep doing that. It will serve you and the world to be a considerate, compassionate, and loving human being. It will alter your life even further, bring you closer to your goals, and leave a ripple effect of kindness when you also display self-love. Go ahead and give it a try.