Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Many have heard the saying, “treat people with kindness,” and that is one of the best life rules to live by because it is extremely important to treat the people you come across in this world with as much kindness as you can provide.
Kindness creates a positive environment and lets others know that you are a safe space for them. What about when you are not treating the one who is always with you with the same kindness you treat others with?
No, I am not talking about your parents, grandparents, brother or sister, best friend or significant other. I am talking about you. It is important to treat yourself with as much, if not more, kindness as you treat those around you.
Think about if someone other than you was not being treated with kindness. They may feel neglected, angry, sad, hurt, disrespected, etc. They might feel all these negative emotions, and they might gain a feeling of resentment towards the person who was not kind to them.
You might have experienced these emotions if someone was not kind to you.
Now imagine these feelings festering inside of you because of how you treat yourself. If you withhold kindness from yourself long enough, these negative feelings are bound to appear. If these feelings start to come up, then it becomes harder to treat yourself with kindness, due to the resentment you hold toward yourself. This is why it is so important to love yourself and to treat yourself with the respect and the love you give to others.
I know this all sounds easy, but it is not easy for a lot of people to treat themselves kindly, especially living such a long period of their lives without doing so.
So, what are some ways you could learn to be kind to yourself?
Of course, similar to learning something in school, learning to be kind to yourself will not happen overnight, and it might take some repetition until you will have it instilled in yourself. According to Beverly Engel, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and practicing Psychotherapist of over 35 years, there are certain habits you can begin to incorporate into your daily routine to help you show yourself kindness.
These habits include:
● Soothing and having compassion
for yourself when you are
● Talking to yourself in a nurturing,
accepting way (positive self-talk)
● Treating your body with love and
● Knowing what you need and providing it for yourself (self-awareness)
Learning how to soothe yourself and show yourself compassion even when you feel like you have messed up something big or you are not doing something right is very important when you are on a journey.
If your friend or family member finds you experiencing troubles, you likely would not want them to treat you insensitively, so treating yourself that way does not make sense, either.
By giving yourself positive self-talk, you would be addressing the difficulties you are having, but you would not be putting yourself down in any way. Positive self-talk encourages healthy communication with yourself, and it helps you to understand that your difficulties do not have to be met with self-hatred. This idea goes hand in hand with self-care, as well. Treating your body and mind with love and care is one of the most important things for your own mental and physical health, so being kind to yourself in this way would only lead to more and more benefits.
However, you cannot provide yourself with self-care unless you know what it is that you need, which is where self-awareness comes in. Once you know exactly what you need to give yourself mentally and physically, you can go about the steps to providing yourself with those necessities.
Having self-awareness will help you to incorporate self-care, positive self-talk, and self-soothing because you will know how to treat yourself and what to say to yourself to ensure a compassionate response to yourself.
Forgiving yourself and treating yourself with compassion can only be beneficial to your well-being. “Lower levels of anxiety and depression have been observed in people with higher self-compassion. Self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, thereby lowering their own levels of related anxiety and depression.”
If you are able to learn how to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, the more you do it, the better your mental health will be because of the positive way you handle difficulties instead of treating yourself harshly. An article published under the Harvard Medical School suggests four different ways to help yourself increase your self-compassion or self-kindness.
● Comforting your body
● Writing yourself a letter
● Giving yourself encouragement
● Practicing mindfulness
One way you can comfort your body is to stretch out a little bit to loosen up and release any tension that you have built from stress or anxiety. If you decide to write a letter to yourself, you could write about your feelings toward something you have not been able to process yet. This might allow you to see a physical representation in front of you of what you may have been avoiding.
This is also a way to help you with closure, whether it be with yourself or others, and it can help you learn to stop holding onto hurt and giving yourself the healing you deserve.
Giving yourself encouragement is a great way to show self-compassion, and the general idea is to be your own cheerleader on a daily basis, so you know there is always someone there cheering you on. Practicing mindfulness includes doing things like meditating, which there are different forms of, or engaging in mindful eating, which means taking the time to appreciate and enjoy your meal (even doing this with one meal a day can be a good start).
These four ideas help you increase your self-compassion with ways to help you learn how to love yourself.
Allison Abrams, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Psychotherapist, also suggests several ways in which you can learn to stop treating yourself harshly. One of the things she suggests matches the Harvard Medical School’s suggestion of practicing mindfulness, but she also includes:
● Treating yourself as you would a
● Remembering that you’re not alone
● Giving yourself permission to be
● Working with a supportive therapist
Treating yourself as a small child can also be giving yourself the compassion you give to those you love. Again, if you treat someone harshly, then you definitely should not be treating yourself that way, either. With respect to remembering you are not alone and giving yourself permission to be imperfect, Abrams emphasizes, “whatever [...] [you’re] going through is also being experienced by millions of others. If we can recognize our shared humanity—that not one of us is perfect—we can begin to feel more connected to others, with a sense that we’re all in this together.” Just remember that nobody is perfect, and putting that amount of pressure on yourself can be extremely harmful to your mental and physical health.
Lastly, working with a therapist or life coach is always a great option considering you would be getting help from a trained professional who might be able to help you pinpoint your issues/trauma. However, not everyone has access to this resource because it might be too expensive or they might not feel comfortable enough to engage with a therapist or coach, yet, which is okay. This is why all of the suggestions provided above are great options for you to practice on your own.
All of these exercises and helpful tips to help you treat yourself better, with more kindness, compassion and love, are an amazing way to start your journey to healing and happiness.
If you are looking for more exercises to help you on this journey, Dr. Kristin Neff has amazing guided practices and exercises to help you boost your self-compassion here.
References:  Engel, B. (2018, June 19). Using the practice of self-kindness to cope with stress. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201806/using-the-practice-self-kindness-cope-stress.  4 ways to boost your self-compassion. Harvard Health. (2021, February 12). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/4-ways-to-boost-your-self-compassion.  4 ways to boost your self-compassion. Harvard Health. (2021, February 12). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/4-ways-to-boost-your-self-compassion.  Abrams, A. (2017, March 3). How to cultivate more self-compassion. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/how-cultivate-more-self-compassion.
5] Abrams, A. (2017, March 3). How to cultivate more self-compassion. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/how-cultivate-more-self-compassion.
Author: Lauryn Agron
Editor: Anum Khan
Public Health Scientist: Carmen Havyarimana