A friend of mine likes to ask, “How are you being kind to yourself in this?”
This one simple question asks so many things:
How are you speaking kindly to yourself?
How are you nurturing yourself?
How are you allowing yourself to rest?
How are you giving yourself what you truly need?
How are you making the space you need in this time?
How are you caring for your body?
How are you sitting in the joy/excitement/love?
How are you showing yourself grace?
Whether I’m describing joy, grief, frustration, or anxiety in my life, my friend’s question gently reminds me to be kind to myself. In the foods I eat. In my internal dialogue. In what I demand of my body. In the amount of grace I show myself when I mess up.
It’s amazing that when a friend—or even a stranger—tells us about his or her life, we are usually quick to offer grace and kindness. We tell our grieving friend to take her time. We give our friend a hug when he needs a shoulder to cry on. We jump up and down and celebrate with our friend who has met her goal. We bring nutritious meals to new parents and hold the baby while they rest or shower. We instinctively care for others, showing them kindness and grace. But it’s often much more difficult to do that for ourselves.
There’s the internal nudge to keep pushing when we really need to rest. There’s the mental spiral telling ourselves we’ll never measure up. There’s the shame when we opt for eating out because we can’t muster the energy to make a home-cooked meal. There’s the guilt when we regret something we said. There’s the late-night snacking to ignore our real needs.
I’ve found it’s a lot easier to be kind to myself when I internalize how kind God has been, and continues to be, to me. His love doesn’t run out. His grace has no end. He’s not looking at us with anger. He’s not shaking his head or wagging his finger. Exodus 35:6 says the Lord is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” He is quick to show us loving-kindness.
When we truly understand this, it’s easier to muster the courage to be kind to ourselves. And it truly is courageous work. Our enemy would have us think we don’t amount to much, that the effort isn’t worth it, that it’s not okay to rest.
This week, being kind to myself has looked like saying “no” to an invitation when I didn’t have the emotional energy for it, going to my counseling appointment, eating deliciously healthy food, going to bed early, taking a long walk, practicing my hand lettering, and choosing not to feel guilty when I needed time to myself.
For me, being kind to myself often revolves around allowing myself space and rest, and reminding myself I can’t do it all. For others, being kind looks like setting up time with friends, allowing yourself a treat, or believing you can do something you’ve been putting off. Sometimes kindness simply looks like identifying the lies you’re telling yourself and saying, “That’s just not true.” Sometimes it looks like sitting outside in the sun sipping coffee. Sometimes it looks like letting yourself off the hook when you make a mistake. Sometimes it looks like surrounding yourself with beautiful things—a plant, a favorite mug, or a painting.
So I ask you today: How are you being kind to yourself?
If you’re not being particularly kind to yourself, I invite you to set aside any shame or guilt and allow yourself a fresh start. Be kind to yourself by reminding yourself: I’m a work in progress, and that’s okay. I’m still lovable and capable, and I will choose to be kind to myself today.
Amy Jackson is founder and director of The Perch.