Self-Compassion: How to Be Kind to Yourself

kindness dalai lama

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind. – Henry James

In the past few years, I’ve become more conscious of something disturbing that I do.

I’ve realized I am a natural when it comes to internally beating myself up on a daily basis for pretty much anything—and everything—that goes wrong. 

It’s upsetting because I am a positive person. I am a positive person that looks for the brightness in even the most clouded day. I offer smiles, advice and help to anyone whenever I can. I like to spread cheer, happiness and love whenever possible. It’s always possible.

But there are still those moments that exist in my day when I find myself slipping from that positive state of mind…

change them

Countless times a day, I’ll catch myself speaking negatively to myself. If I forget to do something? I berate myself for not checking my to-do list. If something doesn’t go as planned? I get disappointed for overlooking details—no matter how minor they might be.

And when it comes to looking back at my past?  Well, I can easily dole out extensive self-help lectures on the could haves, should haves and would haves at any given moment.
Even though I believe everything happens for a reason, I can still get sucked into a whirlpool of negativity instead of gracefully moving forward with the tides of life.

Oh, and even better?  I have a knack for exaggerating these situations to epic proportions worthy of a mini-series, soap opera or Tolstoy novel!

On good days, we can take these experiences, see what failed and make changes in the way we think, act and choose. We recognize the lesson and do our best to learn from it in a way that can help us be better and live smarter.

That’s a wonderful thing.

In fact, when friends or family members come to us for guidance, we often use that knowledge in offering advice. We remember where we have been or where they have been in order to give the best help possible. We listen objectively, share suggestions in a loving way and are patient with them as they work out their difficulties. 

We are kind.
We know what kindness is. We practice acts of kindness on a regular basis with family, friends, partners, colleagues, strangers and children…

But are we being kind to ourselves? 

“Stop beating yourself up about things from your past.  Instead of slapping your forehead and asking, ‘What was I thinking,’ breath and ask yourself the kinder question, ‘What was I learning?” – Karen Salmansohn

Somehow, when it comes to doing this same work for ourselves, we fail miserably.  We know we can look to our experiences to see how we can better ourselves in the present and the future; the problem is we rarely look back with hindsight.

Yes, time can heal all wounds, but time can also make us warm memories in a way that doesn’t serve us. 

Often when we reflect on our choices, we beat ourselves up for the decisions we made, instead of looking for the lesson.  We talk to ourselves harshly, using words we would never think to say to someone we love, instead of being kind.  We see our missteps, mishaps, and misunderstandings as gigantic failures, even if they’re not.

Instead of walking away from these thoughts feeling resolved or motivated, we feel depleted and hopeless.

We do this without realizing it and when we do this too much, we may start to believe the things we are saying. 

“Be kind to yourself.  It’s hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all the time.”

the heart is like a garden

The more these thoughts swirl around, repeating, questioning and criticizing, the more the situation gets blown out of proportion, which creates more unrest, more chaos.

Navigating through life’s twists and turns can be difficult at times, but maybe we can make it a little easier.  There is no doubt that our struggles can help us learn and grow, but only if we treat ourselves with the kindness we bestow on others. 

You know that thing you keep beating yourself up for?  The one that happened a decade ago, months ago or even just a week ago? 

Let it go. Practice hindsight.

Forgive yourself for the things that have happened.  Find the lesson, learn and move on.  Be grateful for the chance to do it differently the next time around.  Look for the humor in life’s twists and turns.  Laugh about the absurdities. 

Most importantly, cut yourself some slack and treat yourself the way you would treat others.

After all, the way you treat yourself sets the stage for how others will treat, respond and react to you.

Why not make the stage a peaceful, positive, loving and kind one?

life is an echo

Angie Sarhan
Angie received her M.F.A in Creative Non-Fiction and currently teaches college writing. She is the creator of Universe Letters—an inspirational blog and jewelry line.  She is passionate about inspiring as many people as possible through her words, jewelry and workshops. For more of Angie’s writing, head over to her blog, which focuses on infusing more mindfulness and positivity in your day-to-day life. Her writing has also been featured on The Huffington Post, Positively Positive, Tiny Buddha, Mind Body Green, The Change Blog, Rebelle Society, Elephant Journal and Having Time.  In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking and being at the beach. For your daily dose of inspiration, you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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