A Mission of Kindness
The sky was cloudy and grey, and the air was damp and chilly. It was the kind of day where you want to stay inside, cuddle under blankets, and watch movies. However, my children and I had a mission of kindness planned. We dressed warm and drove around our small community hiding ‘affirmation hearts.’
These affirmation hearts (as seen in the photo above) were created by a lovely artisan @learn.create.resinate and included the following encouraging reminders:
I am brave
I am resilient
I am enough
I am capable
I am kind
I am loved
I am strong
I’ve got this
Life difficulties can weigh us down and trigger feelings of anxiety, sadness, and frustration. Too often we take these experiences and turn it inward through self-blame and self-criticism. This in turn, fuels more intense feelings and can leave us feeling hopeless and stuck. Want to break the cycle? I’ve found that the key to growth, healing and valuing yourself is to practice self-compassion. Researcher, Kristin Neff, defines self-compassion as:
“…a practice in which we learn to be a good friend to ourselves when we need it the most- to become an inner ally rather than an inner enemy.” [i]
Her research had found that it includes three elements: common humanity, self-kindness, and mindfulness.
Common humanity is the acknowledgment that we are not alone in our suffering, mistakes, and failures.
Mindfulness is the practice of being compassionate towards ourselves by accepting where and who we are in the present moment. (Mindfulness will be explored more fully in the next blog.)
Self-kindness is showing caring and gentleness to ourselves. Kindness starts within and this is the inspiration for my family hiding the affirmation hearts on a rainy day:
We want people to be reminded of their inner awesomeness.
Admittedly, we hid the affirmation hearts in all of our favorite places- the places that brought us joy or comfort— the parks, the library, the ice cream store, the arena, the outdoor exercise area, the hiking trail, and the cenotaph. This experience, like all others, was not perfect and there were lots of squabbles over whose turn it was, complaints about the weather, and so on. And, overall, everyone felt good about having this ‘secret mission’ and excitedly wondered who would find them. In fact, a couple of weeks later, the kids found joy in returning to some of the hiding spots to ensure the hearts have been taken home. When we found that a heart is missing, we say ‘we hope it made someone feel good.’
Three Ways to Practice Self-Kindness
Research continues to highlight the innumerable benefits of adopting self-compassion, including increased resilience, improved mood and motivation (that’s right, it helps you create change!), decreased body-shame and enhanced body-appreciation, and healthier relationships with others.[ii] Sold yet?! If so, you may be wondering how to practice it.
Using self-affirmations is a simple strategy to challenge negative messages and remind yourself of your inner strengths. Visual reminders, like these hearts, are great. You can also leave post-it notes on your mirror, use it as the wallpaper on your phone, or write it in your planner.
For many of us, the critical voice is strong and will automatically reject an affirmation. When this happens, you can practice kindness through soothing touch[iii], such as holding your hand over your heart, hugging a pillow, brushing your hair, or wrapping yourself in a blanket.
The practice I model and use most is a ‘compassionate reframe.’ This is a personally and situationally relevant statement or reminder. A compassionate reframe allows you to challenge your critical thoughts with honesty, vulnerability, self-understanding, and kindness.
Often, we’re harder on ourselves than others. Think of what you’d say to a friend, loved one, or pet. If showing compassion to others is hard too, it’s likely because you were not shown compassion when you needed it. Find a picture of yourself as a young child (or look at your own children) and think of what you might say to them. It can include a statement to reassure yourself, increase self-trust, boost your wellness, offer self-appreciation, and set boundaries.
Listed below are 25 self-compassionate statements to get you started:
I’m perfectly imperfect
I worry about the future and can ground myself in the here and now
With practice and time, I’ll notice improvement
I’m doing the best I can in this moment
Everyone experiences moments of self-doubt. I’ve got this
I haven’t figured it out yet, but I will in time
I trust that I have good intentions even when I might not make the best choices
I’m learning and growing
Making mistakes gives me the opportunity to grow and learn
It’s hard to say no and I need to set boundaries
My imperfections make me real and relatable
I can’t change the past even if I wish I could. I made my decision based on what I knew at the time
Progress over perfection
I don’t have to have it all figured out
It’s okay to say no to that which is not right for me
I’m overwhelmed and I don’t have to do it all on my own. It’s okay to ask for help
I may not like these behaviours now but at one point they likely helped
When feeling uncertain, I need to pause and pay attention within
I’d have preferred to handle it differently, and it was a hard moment and I got through it
Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.
Being vulnerable is tough and it’s how I’m able to connect with the right people
It’s okay to feel what I feel
I’m might have moments of wanting to give in or give up, but they will pass, and I will keep moving forward
I’m okay just the way I am and I’m growing
I’m flawed and fabulous!
As with all change, it takes time, practice, and intentionality. Your critical voice may have had years to develop and has become the automatic ‘go-to.’ You can strengthen your kind and compassionate voice daily through the practices above and overtime you will become your own “inner ally.”
[i] Neff, K. & Germer, C. (2018). The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. The Guilford Press. [ii] Neff, K. & Germer, C. (2018). The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. The Guilford Press. [iii] Neff, K. & Germer, C. (2018). The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. The Guilford Press.