Did you know that it’s ok to be human? It’s ok to mess up? It’s ok to be an imperfect human? Did you also know that it’s ok to look after yourself, it’s not selfish or self centred? And did you know that it’s incredibly important to be kind to yourself, and speak to yourself with compassion and respect?
In theory, you probably knew all those things. But in practice, it’s sometimes harder to remember.
Kindness is at the core of our values at Theatretrain, and in this series of blogs we look at what kindness actually is, how it helps us learn, what happens to our brains when we receive kindness and why kindness is important to the performing arts.
Why is self kindness so difficult?
The simple answer is that we aren’t taught to be kind to ourselves as much as we’re taught to be kind to others. We’ve all heard of, and experienced the ‘inner critic’, the voice that pops up out of nowhere to criticise and point the finger.
Toni Bernhard JD in a 2020 Psychology Today article said that our inner critic, “Comes from habits developed in childhood when we might have repeatedly been told that we should always be on top of things; we should always have control of our moods; nothing less than perfect will do.”
Often our inner critic will say things like: You did that wrong. You can’t do this. Let someone else do it, you’ll mess it up. You’re not as good as them.
The good thing to remember is that this voice never speaks the truth, is always distorted and you can learn to shut it up.
So, how do we learn to be kind to ourselves?
In order to be a kinder, more compassionate person, we have to start with ourselves. We all deserve respect and acceptance. Just as being kind to others takes practice, we have to practice being kind to ourselves. Here are four ways to get started:
- Self reflection: Step back and take time to ask yourself, ‘are you ok?’. Try to do this every day. Write down the things you’ve achieved, the small wins that need celebrating and reflect without judgement on the things that didn’t go so well. Remember that mistakes are essential in life, because that’s how we learn.
- Recognise when your inner critic is in action: Paying attention to our thoughts is always useful, but quite hard to do. It takes practice every day. If you catch yourself saying negative things, take time to challenge those thoughts. When we unravel ‘you can’t do that’, we can usually see that this statement is distorted. We may not feel like we can do certain things but we can figure out a way. The next time you hear a negative thought, ask yourself if it’s 100% accurate. You’ll be surprised how many negative thoughts are unfair and untrue.
- Encourage yourself: Once you start listening to your thoughts and challenging them, you can start encouraging yourself. Positive affirmations help. ‘I can do this’. ‘I’ll find a way to do this’. ‘I’ll smash this’. Give it a try. Write your own affirmations and have fun with it.
- Focus on values, not superficial qualities: When we look at what really matters, it’s rarely what we look like or what we own. When we start valuing honesty, kindness, respect, time with family and friends, and the simple things that make us happy, our focus shifts.
What happens when we are kinder to ourselves?
As we learn to recognise our negative thoughts and challenge them, we can begin to speak to ourselves with respect and kindness and even encourage ourselves. The knock-on effect is that our mental health improves.
- We can avoid the feeling of inadequacy
- We feel more compassionate towards others
- We’re more emotionally stable
- Other people have less power over how we feel about ourselves
- We become more positive and optimistic in our abilities
- We set a great example to others
Being kind to ourselves is important to our mental health and wellbeing, and is also a great example to those around us, including our children. It’s not selfish or self-centred to say kind words and encourage yourself, it actually makes us better people to be around which strengthens our connection to others.
How do you practise being kind to yourself? What effect has self-compassion had on your wellbeing?
In our next blog we talk about what happens to our brains when we receive kindness.