I often hear the phrase “Be Kind To Yourself”. Something I believe in wholeheartedly.
The only problem with this is when are we actually being kind to ourselves, and when are we giving ourselves an out?
Being kind to yourself in terms of self-care is worlds apart from being kind to yourself and letting yourself off the hook, for actions that you know will support and help you and drive your further towards where you want to be, as opposed to actions that drive you further away from where you want to be and any goals or desires you have.
If a friend of yours needed a shoulder to cry on, you would most likely listen, you would be there for them. If a co-worker was having a tough time, you might take them for a coffee and have a chat. If a family member was feeling alone, you might spend some time with them, take them out, introduce them to some people, listen to them and show them they are loved. If a person on the street needed help, you might render assistance in some way.
If your partner was frustrated about an issue at work, you might suggest they talk with you, get it out and work out a solution to their problem, or you my just listen so they feel heard. If your child was feeling unwell, you might suggest some chicken soup or healthy food to help support them in the healing process. If a workout buddy was having trouble with pain or soreness, you might give them a voucher for a massage or do a stretching class with them.
In all of these scenarios, one person is there for another. One person may offer solutions. One person may bring a gift that makes the other person feel loved, and one person may be incredibly kind, giving, understanding and strong for the other.
So my question is, in these situations, would we tell our friend or partner to cover up how they are feeling and eat chocolate while taking the day off life?
If they were wanting weight loss and had a bad day, came to chat and needed some love, would we hand them a chocolate bar and some wine and leave them alone in front of the T.V, while we go about our business or would we give them the space they need to vent, would we give them a hug, would we give them what would actually help them.
The brutal truth about being kind to yourself
While there is the occasion that this is indeed a way to be kind to ourselves, for the most part, this is simply a way we self-medicate to escape from what we do need to deal with in order to be the best version of ourselves.
The issue comes when we have had a few days or weeks of “Being Kind To ourselves” and we don’t feel any better, in fact, we feel worse.
We feel worse because we know we simply validated our actions with the “be kind to yourself” analogy. We know that what has really happened is that we have let ourselves down and not taken the action that we would have liked to. The action that may have been uncomfortable, but would have had a much more positive impact, the action we didn’t take would have made us proud. What could be kinder to ourselves than that?
We also add to our feelings that already needed to be dealt with. When we don’t deal with emotions, habits, behaviours and events, they stay within us and become much larger, the longer we hold on. They intensify and then we add to those feelings with the extra bonus of knowing we didn’t do what was really best for us.
This is not to place blame, but just create a self -awareness that we haven’t been taught to not only deal with what comes up, but deal with it in a way that brings us out of our pain, instead of hiding inside of it.
So what do we do instead?
If we take weight loss for example….
Being Kind to Lose Weight
Understand your triggers.
When we are having a bad day, have a list of positive actions to choose from instead of going to the usual habits and behaviours that you are wanting to change.
Understand that being uncomfortable will be part of any process of change. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable.
When we are having a hard time, what do we need? Know what brings you joy. Know what you need on days you find difficult.
When we have been losing weight and come across a stumbling block, what do we do? Have an accountability buddy, have a go-to action, have something or someone that makes a positive difference to you and your life. No one was meant to do anything alone -nothing great is ever achieved alone, and this includes weight loss.
I often hear people say “oh, I only did that because I was giving myself a day off” I only went off my eating plan because I had a rough week and I was being kind to myself” “ I gave myself the day off exercise because I was tired and I needed to be kind to myself”
If you need to sleep in because your body is asking for it- Do it.
If you make the choice to go off your eating plan because you had a rough week and your way of dealing with it was to eat chocolate, then own it and get back on track.
If on your way to weight loss, you came across a stumbling block and your way of dealing with that was to binge on food, then own it and get back on track.
Just don’t say it was because you were “Being Kind To Myself”
Ask yourself these questions
- Is it kinder to yourself to stay committed to your eating, even in tough times, because that then leads to the confidence in your body that you have been craving for so long?
- Is it kinder to yourself to push yourself to move when you don’t feel like it, even when you are stressed because you know exercise helps remove some of that stress and anxiety from your body?
- Is it kinder to yourself to put off something that you know will benefit you and using some sort of life excuse, when you know deep down this is what you want?
- Is it kinder to yourself to not be the very best you, you can possibly be, and to live every day knowing that you are not living up to your potential?
- Is it kinder to yourself to nourish your body when you are not well, have a rest, allow your body to heal and then get on with life, than to push through feeling awful while eating food that makes it more difficult for your body to heal?
- Is it kind to yourself to emotionally eat chocolate because you had a terrible disagreement with your boss, instead of actually dealing with the situation and your feelings so it does not continue?
I get it, I too feel the need to “Be Kind To Myself”. It’s just that over the years……I have realised many of the ways that I was “Being Kind To Myself” was not in fact being kind at all, it was quite the opposite.
I know that “being kind to myself” means that sometimes I need to push myself and question my thought processes and patterns.
I know “Being Kind To Myself” means that I need to stand guard at the door to my emotional responses and reactions to life, so I can deal with these events in a manner to which inspires me, not brings me down.
I know that “Being Kind To Myself” means that I don’t neglect my goals for an instant of pleasure and I know that “Being Kind To Myself” means I don’t turn my back on honouring and loving myself in each and every moment, just because I do or don’t feel like it at the time.
I know that “being Kind to Myself” really means having a wonderful connection with myself. It means knowing when “being kind” is letting ourselves off the hook and being kind is really what we need.
I also know that being kind is not about eating chocolate to escape or just because. I( If we want to eat chocolate, that is absolutely what we should do, just in a mindful way that’s not about escape or swapping emotions for food, but that’s another blog!).
It is about giving ourselves the best possible way of loving and honouring ourselves in each and every moment. It is about seeking to know more, to connect more and to be more.
So next time you are choosing a way to “Be Kind To Yourself”, first ask, is this really what I need? Will this nourish me in the way I need to be nourished right now? Is this supportive of my goals and what I desire?
The education, support and guidance is there for you, to build new habits, find new solutions and develop new patterns. The help is there to learn new skills to support you on your journey and give you the love you really need in times of small or large stress.
We need not sabotage ourselves and get in our own way any longer, for there are simply too many ways in which we can “Be Kind To Ourselves” that actually are KIND and contribute to us, in not only the short term, but in both the long and short term, helping us and everyone around us. Not hindering but assisting us, not attacking but nurturing us, not niggling at our triggers or hiding them but delivering freedom from them.
Enjoy being kind to yourself and enjoy choosing your kindness!