If your goal is to be genuinely kind to others (and to be kinder to yourself) but you’re having trouble doing it, clearly something is holding you back. To find out what that is, it’s important to examine your assumptions about kindness.
Now, before you read on, stop and take a moment. What do you think may be holding you back? Be as honest as you can be and give this a few minutes. Write down what you discover.
How did it go? Now take a look at the questions below and see if any of the following show up on your list.
Start Being Kind to Yourself with These 7 Questions
Without self-judgment, ask yourself these questions to see what you can learn about your relationship with kindness. If you find that you’re carrying around any of these mistaken or negative ideas about kindness, see if you can challenge them a little bit.
1. Are you telling yourself you “should” want to be kind to others? Are you making kindness into a project or an obligation?
2. Do you think if you don’t feel like being kind it proves you are a bad person?
3. Are you trying to be a “good person” according to your childhood or parental programming? Does this cause you to think of kindness as a burden?
4. Do you tend to keep score? Do you want to make sure that if you extend kindness, you will be noticed? Do you want to make sure you will receive a kindness in return?
5. Are you afraid your kindness will be mocked or rejected? “Aren’t you the Little Goody Two-Shoes!” “Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of it?” If we have met with such harsh responses in the past, we still may be carrying these disapproving messages around with us. Fear can prevent us from opening our hearts to be kind.
6. Are you afraid that if you are kind, people will take advantage of you? Being kind involves some degree of vulnerability. Kindness takes courage and a bit of trust.
7. Do you think you have to feel loving and kind before you can do an act of kindness? You don’t! One of the most important bits of wisdom one can have is to recognize that you can choose to take action regardless of what you think or feel. Here is a simple example I often share with my clients: Many people wake up in the morning and FEEL like staying in bed. But they make the choice to get out of bed. Why? Because they place a higher value on the rewards of getting up in the morning (I’ll keep my job) than they do on enjoying the cozy feeling of sleeping in.
It is a kindness to yourself to examine any fearful, shaming ideas you may have picked up about yourself in relation to kindness. It’s your mind, after all. You and only you have the power to dismiss these negative ideas that block your natural openness to connecting with others. Any one of these mistakes in our thinking can stop us from opening our hearts and being kind.
You can start with the getting-out-of-bed example just mentioned. Think of an aspiration you have toward kindness. Make it specific — what is one simple kindness you could do today?
When you decide on one kind act –– something you value more than your passing thoughts and emotions –– you will easily begin to cultivate your capacity to act with kindness. It won’t matter what you are thinking and feeling. You’ll just do it because you’ve decided it matters to you. The more you practice acting on your higher principles, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Not only that, but research has shown us that being kind increases our happiness.
7 Simple Ways to Make Kindness a Habit
1. Slow down physically and mentally. Yes, slowing down is actually a high principle! When we interrupt our speedy habits of thinking and acting, we can feel the natural softness and goodness of our being. We also appreciate that others need love and care as much as we do. From within this natural softening, we become aware of our basic goodness. And then quite naturally we begin to have inspirations to act with kindness.
2. Question and challenge your thoughts and feelings. Don’t let them fool you. Where are they really coming from? Do you have to believe fearful or mean spirited judgments? Do you have to believe anything just because other people do?
3. Remember, even if you get stuck on such beliefs and think you can’t let them go, you can still choose to act with kindness –– even in the midst of feeling worried or tense.Do a few small acts of kindness each day. Smiling at 3 or 4 people you meet, saying “thank you” to someone, or holding the door open for them, can change your whole experience of your day. What small acts of kindness would you appreciate if someone else did them for you? Do these acts for others and notice how you feel.
4. Practice appreciating the efforts of others. Everything that comes to us in life is the result of the kind actions of others. When we stop to notice how many ways we are helped in our lives, rather than complaining about what we aren’t getting, our gratitude grows.
5. Every day, without even thinking, we say “Hello” or “Thank you” or “Have a good day.” Shift these from mere polite, automatic gestures to sincere expressions of appreciation. How? Focus in the present moment, really see the person you’re speaking to. Notice that this person is a miraculous being, temporarily appearing in this amazing world –– just as you are!
6. Whatever ideas you may have about kindness, be determined. Don’t let yourself be stopped by fear! Think for a moment of a situation or two where you’ve noticed yourself turning away from being kind to someone. Imagine yourself turning toward that person and doing some act of kindness for them.
7. Even a small act of kindness, such as considering others, counts. Are you intimidated or irritated by someone at work? Try to remember they are a human being with feelings, too. Their irritating behavior is likely due to unresolved pain they are carrying. Within each of us there is hidden heartbreak. The surprise of kindness can heal the heart.
Enjoy the peace, love and goodness of your heart this winter season. Enjoy sharing that with others!