Chapter 2 Being Kind to Yourself

Developing an attitude of kindness towards yourself and others is essential if you want to be happy. Kindness will support you whatever difficulties you may face and kindness wishes for the best outcome for you and everyone else. In its full form, kindness means taking the action necessary to achieve that outcome. Kindness stops you judging yourself harshly which undermines your self-esteem and happiness, and stops you judging others harshly which only puts distance between you.

We live in a society that underrates kindness as though it is a weakness that leaves us vulnerable to manipulation. In taking this view we have created a society in which people are generally selfish and inward looking. We have lost the community and support that we evolved to be a part of and this causes us conflict. Deep down we feel alone and yearn for care and kindness. Sometimes we can find it difficult to find this kindness in others. Sometimes we can find it difficult to find it in ourselves. You have to break this rule and develop kindness if you want to be happy, and the first place to start is being kind to yourself.

To develop kindness you need to know what it feels like and practice this feeling so it becomes second nature. The easiest way to start is to think of someone who you feel a natural kindness for. It might be a pet or a child, someone you know well or someone you don’t know well. Bring them into your mind as clearly as you can. Feel into the kindness that naturally wells up. Feel it in your body, in your heart. Take your time. Feel a softness, a tenderness, a welling up of love and kindness and hold yourself gently in this experience. Learn this feeling so you can recognise when it is there and when it isn’t. Now direct this feeling towards yourself. Feel that warmth and gentleness and care directed towards yourself. Feel the kindness emanating from your heart turn back towards your own heart. Feel it surround you and cocoon you in loving kindness and relish this support, that you can give to yourself any time, all of the time. Know that you can take refuge in your own loving kindness whenever you want it and need it.

When you are kind to yourself you wish the best for yourself and you take the time to tend to your own needs and values. You don’t compromise them with your own behaviour and you don’t let other people trash your needs. You develop healthy boundaries to protect yourself as much as you need and want to. As you learn to respect yourself, others will learn to respect you. You do not push yourself beyond a point of healthy self-respect and you take rest when you need to. You also take on the challenges that will give life meaning for you, giving yourself time to learn and develop new skills and be patient with yourself while you learn, while you make mistakes. You take the time to become attuned to what makes you uncomfortable and act immediately when you need to preserve your safety and well-being. That includes your own negative thoughts as well as the speech and behaviour of others. As you practice kindness you stop the negative self-talk and you stop imagining what unkind thoughts other people are thinking about you.

Now you are ready to extend your kindness to others. It means looking at people you know with fresh eyes. Seeing them as separate people with their own needs. Listening and attending to them afresh and questioning, what do they need? How can you help them to meet their needs? Watch how they respond and how your relationships strengthen. It means meeting people that you don’t know with a kindly appreciation, recognizing that they are just as real and whole as you are. Be quick to smile and slow to judge. 

Practice this balancing act of kindness towards yourself and others. Try and bring it forward in your attitude and actions as much as you can. It is a foundation for your wellbeing and makes you happier. It helps you to build a network of friends and helps you to make the world a nicer place.

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