Why Bother Being Kind To Yourself?
It is summer holiday. I am on vacation. I don’t normally see any students or any of my coworkers during the summer months. I don’t get in my car and drive to school to spend time in my classroom preparing lessons. I don’t have a pile of papers to correct, report cards to fill out, data to enter or meetings to attend. I am on recess from all that work, but I am not on recess from myself. There is no such thing as time off from “me.” As the saying goes, wherever I go, there I am.
Getting to Know Thyself
Am I good company? Am I easy to get along with? How do I like spending time with myself? These may sound like odd questions to ask ourselves, and yet they are probably the same kind of questions we’d ask about someone else. “What are they like?” is a legitimate and common query when wondering about someone we don’t know very well.
It would seem that we would automatically come to know ourselves and at the same time, like ourselves too. Yet, just like becoming comfortable in the company of our spouse or a new friend, it takes time and effort to acquaint ourselves with who we are. Though we can “unlike” a friend or even divorce our spouse, that option is not available when it comes to ourselves. Since we cannot escape from our own presence, it is worth the effort it takes to find compatible ways to coexist with ourselves.
Getting to know me has taken time. Getting to like me has taken even longer. I’ve given up on understanding myself and only require that I be kind to myself. I am a recovering taskmaster who is in the process of letting themselves off the hook of perfectionism. It is a work in progress and I am grateful for the progress I’ve made.
For instance, I know I do not work well under pressure. Instead, I give myself plenty of time to do what needs to be done. I also know that I cannot work at any one thing for any great length of time, so I chunk up projects into smaller portions. Even if I don’t accomplish what I thought I could have within the allotted amount of time, I don’t berate myself. I can walk away before something is completed without criticizing or scolding myself. I’ve realized that beating myself up does not make me want to work any harder. Instead, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack and allow myself to take up the project again, later. Given enough time, I know I will complete whatever needs completing because I’m not a slacker.
I don’t like being around cranky people and I know what makes me cranky: lack of sleep, not enough exercise and too many sweets. Knowing I need 7-8 hours of sleep to stay happy, I go to bed early. Knowing I require exercise to stay content, I carve out time every day to swim, bike, run or practice yoga. As much as possible, I listen to my sweet tooth, but I don’t let it dominate my diet. Being kind does not mean giving into every whim.
Getting to know myself allows me to accept myself as I would any friend. And just as I’d never use intimate knowledge against any of my friends to do them any evil, I don’t use what I know against myself either. Instead, I use it to be gracious, pleasant and welcoming.
Why bother being kind to yourself? It is worth being kind to yourself since you are the one you are with twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out.