One Simple Change: Be Kind To Yourself

I am happy to report that I had a fantastic time at my Cornell reunion. I missed my 5, 10, and 15 year reunions for one reason or another, and I almost didn’t go to this one because I’ve got a lot on my plate this month. But I am so glad that I made the trip to Ithaca! I spent most of my time catching up with friends, of course, but I couldn’t resist snapping just a few photos of the stunning gorges before I left.

At one point on Saturday afternoon, a group of us gathered to share memories of our friend Liz, who died in a car accident in December of 1999. Liz was beautiful inside and out…the type of person who truly made the world a better place. It was nice to get together and talk about how much we all still miss her.

On my way back from the reunion, my heart was full but I was bothered by something. I kept thinking about this post that I put up on Friday night. I felt weird about it. I wished I hadn’t hit the publish button.

I sat with the discomfort for a bit. And tried to figure out why I felt this way.

I realized that I equate not posting on time with failure. And I was really upset with myself for failing.

Hmmmmmm.

I trashed the post I was going to finish up so we can talk about being kind to yourself today instead.

{If you are new to my blog, this is the 21st post in my One Simple Change series. OSC happens once a week (usually on Fridays). For these posts, I take off my food blogger hat and rummage around for the one I used to wear when I practiced naturopathic medicine. Then I write about small changes you can make in your life…changes that when practiced and cultivated into habits will improve the quality of your life and help make you a healthier person. This is generally a food blog, and many of my OSC posts focus on healthy eating/nutrition. But some do not, because being truly healthy is about more than the foods that you eat.}

I’ve only been aware of the term “self-compassion” for a couple of months. I wish I’d learned about it sooner, because I have a history of being quite unkind to myself: I was clearly not being kind when I got angry at myself for not finishing last week’s post, made a bunch of excuses, then set another public deadline I couldn’t possibly meet (because I set myself up for failure again, and once again got angry at myself).

What does it mean to be kind to yourself? Being kind to yourself means not judging yourself harshly for not being perfect. It means not holding yourself to impossibly high standards. It means putting an end to comparing yourself to others. It means not beating yourself up for making a mistake. It means not criticizing yourself for “not being good enough” at something. It means not punishing yourself for not meeting a self-imposed deadline when you’ve simply got too much going on.

Being kind to yourself means being your own cheerleader. When you are consistently kind to yourself, you don’t need others to validate your efforts and boost your confidence because you can do those things for yourself.

Do you have an “inner voice” that’s overly critical, too? We should teach our inner voices to say nice things (or not to say anything at all), don’t you think? Wouldn’t it make sense to have reasonable expectations for ourselves so we aren’t setting ourselves up for failure? And why beat ourselves up when things don’t go the way we planned? We should be kind to ourselves when things are going well…and when they’re not. If we were kinder to ourselves, I think we’d all suffer a lot less and there’d be less need for so many people to be medicated for anxiety and depression.

Let’s be clear that being kind to yourself does not mean allowing yourself to spend all your days laying on the couch eating bon bons. Quite the contrary: being kind to yourself means respecting your body so that you take excellent care of yourself. Being kind to yourself means you are more likely to put good food into your body, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. When you are kind to yourself, you’ll feel better physically and mentally. You’ll be more likely to excel at all that you do, and you’ll be better able to take good care of others.

Many people are excellent at showing compassion to others but fall short when it comes to being kind to themselves. What about you? Are you self-compassionate or is this an area you need to work on? Are you “in” for this One Simple Change? I’d love to hear what this topic brings up for you in the comments section below.