Self-Kindness vs. Kindness Toward Others: A Non-Battle

This is what you look like when you try to save the world on no sleep.

Ever feel bad rejecting someone? Saying no to working on the weekend? Telling a friend you don’t have time to hang out simply because you’d rather be doing something else? Does doing nice things for yourself make you feel guilty? Why do we feel so bad about neglecting other people’s needs, but not our own? Too often, we think of kindness toward ourselves and kindness toward others as conflicting interests, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, self-kindness puts us in the right state of mind to better support the people around us. Here’s how:

1. Being kind to ourselves keeps us calm and upbeat.

Have you ever tried to do a job on no sleep, or tried to exert yourself physically without eating anything first? Have you ever found yourself unable to enjoy something you usually like, simply because you were too tired/hungry/stressed out? Being exhausted or overstressed not only makes it difficult to do our jobs well, it also makes it less fun. This is too bad, because being kind to others can be quite the happiness boost. Stress on the other hand, makes us more irritable and angry – not exactly a great recipe for kindness. Next time you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break and do something that relaxes you – even if you could be helping others instead. Trust me, keeping yourself happy will pay off later and prevent you from getting burned-out.

2. Being kind to ourselves prevents us from becoming dependent or feeling entitled to the kindness of others.

When we continue to neglect our own needs, eventually we may find ourselves in a state of crisis or emergency where others will have to care for us. Worse still, people who continually give back without caring for themselves often feel like they are owed a certain level of kindness or gratitude from others in return. When you give to others under the expectation that they will give back to you in the future, that isn’t kindness, that is an exchange. Being truly kind means flying in the face of economics by helping others without the expectation of being helped in return. Taking good care of yourself will not only keep you healthy, it will promote self-reliance and reduce the risk of codependency.

3. Accepting our own imperfections enables us to accept the imperfections of others.

Being a perfectionist may not sound that bad, but having unrealistic expectations of ourselves can throw off our perspective. When you deny your own imperfections in the act of helping others, this may lead you to see yourself as a “savior” or somehow better than the people you are trying to help. Instead of beating yourself up over your mistakes or imperfections, take some time to accept a normal human degree of error. Not only will it make you more comfortable with who you are and what you are doing, it will also enable you to better accept the flaws in others and recognize yourself on the same level.

Enjoy this post? Want to hear more inspirational pieces, or are you more interested in advice and tips for getting down to business? Let me know what you think in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading!

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