Why being kind to ourselves is the best thing we can do for others

I run. I love running. When I participate in this activity I feel completely engaged with what I’m doing. Sometimes I pay attention to the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. Other times I pay attention to my breath. I hear myself inhale and exhale and feel the oxygen filling my lungs. I feel grateful that the oxygen fuels my muscles and allows me to continue pushing through each kilometre. Other times, I smile at people I pass. I see the children and their parents playing in the park as I pass and I watch the people walking their dogs or strolling with friends, engaged in deep conversation. I feel a part of humanity. I feel connected.

I used to think that running out the door as soon as my husband arrived home was a little selfish. This may be true but I’ve come to realise that I’m a much calmer and happier person to be around if I do. I’m more patient, more energetic and more productive. In fact running out the door to engage in this activity is an act of kindness not just to myself but to those around me too. You can’t pour from an empty cup after all.

This brings me to the notion of self-compassion. According to Dr Kristin Neff, a researcher, author and teacher in the field, self –compassion is the ability to identify suffering in yourself and have the desire to ease suffering. It’s when you offer yourself the same level of kindness that you would show another person or animal.  Just like you might see a dog shaking or lip licking as an indication that the dog is anxious and needs help. Self-compassion is about recognising our own suffering, extending kindness to ourselves and having the desire to ease our own suffering. An additional aspect of self-compassion is recognising that suffering is part of the human condition. We all suffer at times and we are all flawed. None of us are perfect or lead perfect lives.

Self-compassion is the difference between beating yourself up for a mistake and thinking “I made a mistake. I am human. How might I learn from this?” It’s the difference between telling yourself to “suck it up and move on” when something difficult happens and saying to yourself “this is really hard; how can I care for myself in this moment?”

As you cultivate self-compassion you might find yourself making positive and healthy changes in your life. Not because there is something wrong with you but because you are human and recognise that taking time out for yourself to reenergise is necessary for all people.

As the wise Dr Seuss says in “Oh the places you’ll go”.

On and on you will hike,

And I know you’ll hike far

And face up to your problems

Whatever they are

You’ll get mixed up, of course

As you already know.

You’ll get mixed up

With many strange birds as you go

So be sure when you step

Step with great care and great tact

And remember that Life’s

A Great balancing Act.

This is the human condition. We will fail, we will get tired and we will suffer. We will stumble and we will fall. We all do at some point in our lives and it’s ok. The more accepting you are of this reality, the more compassion you will have for yourself and for others.

And so I run.

What will you do?