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Kindness To Yourself

Kindness is one of the most powerful sources on this planet, not to be confused with niceness.  Niceness is a slightly shallower pleasance that we bestow upon our fellow humans.  Kindness, however, goes much deeper than that. 

Showing people love, treating them with respect, offering genuine forgiveness, thinking about what it is like in their shoes, staying open-minded to differences, and always choosing words with care.  It’s great and wonderful, and yet time and time again, we forget to show kindness to one person in particular:

Ourselves. 

For so many of us, we become our own worst critics.  If we would talk to others the way we negatively talk to ourselves, we would be labeled the biggest jerks around.  If we undervalued and ignored other people’s health, bodies, and well-being in the same we undervalue and ignore our own care, we would be inconsiderate, at best, and downright terrible, more realistically. 

Why is it sometimes so hard to be kind to ourselves?  Why do you find it so difficult to treat yourself with kindness?

Maybe you have been handed shame and guilt by others so many times, all you see is shame and guilt when you look at yourself in the mirror.  Maybe because you so intimately know each flaw you have and each mistake you’ve made, you are reminded of them every day.  Or maybe you are so trapped by perfectionism and insurmountable expectations, you rarely feel like you will be able to amount to anything of worth.

But think about this:  If you had a relationship with somebody who constantly berated you, spoke down to you, told you that you weren’t good enough, kept bringing up your faults, refused to care for your needs, refused to give you rest, and heaped upon you one expectation after the other – you would (hopefully) end that relationship quickly.

Yet, we do this to ourselves everyday.  We think, “Sure, I can wrap my brain around showing kindness to others.”  And still, showing kindness to ourselves feels like the hardest thing to do. Like any other thing in this life, to get better, you have to practice.  Here are a few ways to show yourself kindness today.

Treat yourself 

  1. Think about one thing that brings you pleasure and do it without shame and guilt.

This could include, but is certainly not limited to:

  • Lighting a candle and sitting down with your favorite gossip magazine.
  • Getting dessert with a friend after work.
  • Splurging on a pedicure.
  • Leaving work 10 minutes early to beat traffic.
  • Go to bed earlier and love every minute.
  • Doing the cardio you love for as long as you like, that runner’s high.
  1. Replace a negative thought with a positive thought.

Sometimes in the pursuit of ridding our brains of negative self-talk, we end up adding even more negative self talk when we berate ourselves for every unkind thought that pops into our minds.  It is much more effective to replace the negative thought with a positive one than it is to beat yourself up about it.

You think:  “I can never do anything right.”

Then you replace it with:  “I do so many things right, yet I am allowed to make mistakes sometimes because I’m human.”

  1. Stop saying “no” when you want to say “yes” and vice versa.

We live in a confused society where people say “yes” to all sorts of things they really do not want to do, yet deprive themselves by saying “no” to what they actually want.

  • Say “no” to the baby shower you do not want to go to; say “yes” to the mimosa brunch with a girlfriend that you do want to go to.
  • Say “no” to being guilted into contributing to the office fundraiser you do not feel passionate about; say “yes” spending that extra money on your hobby.
  1. Speak your truth.

In deep fear of hurting someone else or being judged, we often silence ourselves.  By doing this, you tell yourself that your voice or opinion does not matter.  Find a way to speak your truth kindly, but as firmly as you need to.  Stand up for yourself the way you would stand up for somebody else. 

Show yourself some kindness today.  Then again tomorrow.  Make it a pattern.  Because at the end of the day, you are the only person you are guaranteed to have in your life.  You might as well make it a healthy relationship!

 

                     

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Deliberate Gratitude

The world is a messy place. Our lives are messy too. In the middle of chaos, confusion, heartbreak, sickness, terrorist attacks, and political turmoil, gratitude can so easily feel too far out of reach. Many of us have seasons in our life, maybe even right now, where “(Blank) is all wrong” leaves our lips much more frequently than “I’m thankful for (blank).”

But what if we looked at gratitude not as a reaction when everything is great, but as a necessary response under all circumstances - the good, bad, ugly, sad, and beautiful?

Melody Beattie, author and expert on codependency, writes, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” She’s not denying the chaos, confusion, lack, smallness, or even fear. She’s simply suggesting that we change our perspective.

Gratitude, then, becomes a choice rather than only a feeling, an outlook on life rather than a momentary whim. Sure, sometimes things are simply marvelous and we deeply feel thankful in that moment. But those other times, when life feels ugly and terrifying, we do not naturally feel like giving thanks. We naturally feel miserable. But this is when must choose gratitude anyway and make it the lens through which we see everything.

Making the decision to give thanks often requires that we step outside of ourselves and outside of the fog to thank the universe for things that may not have crossed our minds before: the warm sun on a cold day, toenails to paint, lungs that breathe even while we’re sleeping, options at a grocery store, or mail that has our name on it proving we have an identity.

This deliberate gratitude translates into a better attitude. We begin to flip the script on our lives. Instead of “I have to,” we can feel thankful that we “get to.” Instead of looking in the world in fear of everything that can go wrong, we can look around us at everything going right. Even if all you can think of is a beautiful sunset or your favorite sweater.

You see, when we choose gratitude, we are actually practicing self-care. We remind ourselves again and again that we are worthy of a good life, so we refuse to be taken down by the mess. We are combatting fear and surrounding our lives with good vibes.

To be clear, this isn’t denial. Thankfulness isn’t about pretending life is not hard sometimes (or a lot of the time.) The poet Jack Gilbert wrote these beautiful words: “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” He knew life is hard and didn’t deny that fact, but he knew we must be stubborn enough to choose gladness, a form of gratitude, anyway. 

In a few days, maybe some of us will sit down with family at a Thanksgiving table, maybe some of us won’t. Maybe Thanksgiving brings the happiest memories, or maybe it’s a ticking bomb of bad memories. No matter the circumstance, we can use this holiday as a reminder: we deserve to live a life that is not bogged down by the mess, but a life that chooses a perspective of deliberate gratitude.

                     

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Beauty and Perfectionism

We have heard about the dangers of perfectionism and know it can lead to frustration or even worse. We know it’s unattainable. But how do we find a balance between rejecting the destructive patterns of perfectionism and embracing positive self-improvement – especially in the area of beauty?

Women are constantly being shown how to look BETTER. The beauty industry did not get to be worth billions of dollars by not marketing their latest and greatest products to women every single day. Better skin, better hair, better nails! Be more youthful and beautiful! Firmer and sexier too! Not to mention, the women on the advertisements look utterly flawless, thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

We see and hear these messages so often, and we start to internalize them: I need to be better. Desiring improvement is one of the best things we can do as human beings, but, at the same time, this emphasis on “better” can easily become a dangerous slippery slope that leads straight to perfectionism.

What to do?

The lovely Brené Brown, Ted Talk sensation, scholar, and research professor behind popular books such as Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, has a lot to say on this matter in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. First she explains what perfectionism actually is:

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

If I look perfect…I can avoid…the painful feelings of shame. That’s where it all stems from: we fear painful feelings, so we grasp at whatever we can to avoid them. We don’t want to feel the shame of other people thinking we aren’t beautiful or judging our outward appearance. We don’t want to feel the shame of negative self-talk in our own heads. We yearn for acceptance and sometimes convince ourselves if we look perfect, it will come.

But here’s the truth for us all: we have no choice but failure with this pursuit of outward perfection. You will never look in the mirror and see a perfect image staring back. We’re human; all humans are flawed. The shame we feel through beauty comparison (She has fewer wrinkles, a tighter tummy, better bone structure, thicker hair, etc.) is deadly to our mind and bodies. We begin hating our imperfections, hating ourselves.

We cannot pursue beauty perfection; it’s impossible and harmful. But that does not mean we cannot aim for positive improvements.

Brené also writes, “Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?”

This concept of healthy striving is a much more positive way for women to embrace the beauty industry and improve their skin/hair/bodies. Instead of being motivated by avoiding shame and pursuing acceptance, we can look at the beauty industry as a method of self-care.

We have one body to use, and we need to care for it. We can keep it healthy and strive to improve it. These are lovely ambitions for every woman. In fact, they are acts of SELF-CARE. Skincare, makeup, hair care, and other beauty products are means in which we can make our own bodies a priority.

We can say: I am WORTH having youthful, radiant skin; strong, smooth hair; and healthy, manicured nails. I am WORTHY of genuine care.

This outlook comes from a place of worthiness, not a place of shame. Healthy improvement is driven by doing what’s best for you, not what others “expect” of you.

It would be nice to utilize the offerings of the beauty industry to improve ourselves and create a happy, healthy, cared-for body. Not to turn them into a feeding frenzy for a perfectionism addiction.

 

                     

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