The Truth About Practising Self-Kindness

Happy International Women’s Day, me harties!

Today is the Height of the Feminist Season. It’s like Christmas for us feminists: everything is happening today! So I’m super busy.

In the morning I gave a workshop on Self-kindness as part of an IWD event. It went really well, and I’m quite excited about teaching these concepts and techniques.

I also met Lucy Holmes, the master mind behind the “No More Page 3” campaign, which was awesome. You have signed the petition, right?

Now before I leave you to go to our Reclaim the Night March, I want to share with you a story.

The reason why I haven’t posted anything in a while is because, I was miserably depressed for one solid week.

It was horrible. At one point I feared my heart would literally stop from all the pain.

One the first day of this horrendous week, I went to yoga class, and was so upset people wondered what was wrong with me.

Someone from that class found out I was going to teach a workshop on self-kindness and told me that I looked as if I needed some myself.

This made me go “Whoa! Hang on right there!”. I felt quite “protective” towards my pain.

This brought a really important realisation. Here it is.

If you experience sadness, self-loathing, misery, depression, suicidal thinking, self-abuse, etc… It does not mean you are not practising self-kindness.

YUP. THAT’S RIGHT. I SAID IT. HAR HAR. Oh, YEAH! Hear me roar. Etc.

Just like… if you are smelly right now (sniffs arm pits) it does not mean you don’t shower every day. (and I do)

Just like if you’re eating a meal and your teeth are “dirty” it doesn’t mean that you don’t brush them.

See?

Practising self-kindness is not about “getting rid of all negative feelings foreverz so you are happy with yourself all the time omg amaze”. That would be unrealistic.

This is something we ALL tend to do, not just when practising self-kindness, but with practising all sorts of things.
We say “Dude, I do yoga, why do I get sick? That’s not fair!” or “mwaaah, I’ve been meditating and trying to go all spiritual teachings and stuff and things still go wrong, and my life is still a mess” (this was yours truly on Sunday).

We do this all the time: we start something with the expectation that all our problems will be resolved and we will never suffer again.

Practising self-kindness does not mean you will like yourself forever. It does not mean that even slightly.

Much like sweating and smelling after you’ve exercised does not mean you don’t shower regularly.

It just means that you can notice that you are not being kind to yourself, and resolve to at least try to be kind to yourself.
And sometimes the kindest thing we can do for ourselves it to let us suffer.

Oh yeah. I said it.

In fact, I’ll say it again: sometimes the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to let us suffer.

When this person said I needed some self-kindness, it finally dawned on me: legitimacy. I had forgotten to give my feelings legitimacy.

Their words brought me back to that place where I feel “protective” of my feelings. I feel like saying “look, I am damn well justified in feeling what I’m feeling, so back off and let me feel it”.

And it’s 100% true. My feelings are entirely reasonable. My life is, to all intents and purposes, a mess. Things are really, really tough. And they have been tough for a really, really long time.
And I’m running on empty. I’m depleted and exhausted and I need a billion things to recover, and none of them appear remotely within reach, like, oh, I don’t know, some kind of financial stability so that I don’t have to have panic attacks over where I’m going to be living next month and what am I going to be living on. “Things” like that.

I need a holiday. Long, long stretches of time with nothing to do but rest. And sleep. And instead I have to push, push, push and somehow “manifest” an income for myself out of thin air because I have to become self-employed before it’s “too late”.

So yeah. My feelings? Legitimate. And it doesn’t mean I don’t practice self-kindness. I do.

Here’s how:

  • I noticed I was feeling horrible. I let myself feel horrible. I let myself cry. I said to myself “I’m so sorry, sweetie, this is so hard, you’re feeling so sad”. And I said many times over throughout the day.
  • I tried to ground myself. I placed my foot on the ground while at the traffic lights and really noticed my foot.
  • I noticed my hands, and this “itch” for destruction, for breaking, weather myself, or something or someone.
  • I noticed this itch and when I couldn’t hold it any longer, I hit a lamp post. And I noticed THAT.
  • I passed a couple on the street and I noticed all the feelings that got stirred up.
  • I had a shower and I held myself while I cried.
  • During yoga I paid attention to myself and noticed when I could not move any more and I didn’t.

I WAS WITH MYSELF THE WHOLE TIME.

None of these things made the feelings go away. None of these things helped me “feel better”.

Self-kindness is not chocolate.
The horrible feelings were still there. And they were painful as Hell.

But by staying with myself, by noticing how I was feeling and trying to give myself as much kindness as I could manage, not “push away the feelings by telling myself they shouldn’t be there” I effectively avoided adding further trauma to myself.

Here’s the truth of the pudding: We practice self-kindness by deciding we want to practice self-kindness and by spending time practising it. By renewing our commitment day after day to practice self-kindness.

THAT is self-kindness. Staying with ourselves and saying “I’m gonna practice self-kindness, even now when I really, really don’t feel like it”

We never “get there”. It’s a “process”.

Whenever you interact with yourself with the intention to be “a bit kinder to yourself”, you are practising self-kindness.

Even if that takes the form of “I cannot stop being mean to myself, but I’m noticing that I’m being mean to myself and I’m recognising that a part of me wishes I wasn’t”.

Staying with yourself. That’s where it’s at. Always.

Because THAT is the kindest thing we could ever do for ourselves.

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