By Linda Commito
Two weeks ago, I met with 25 second graders from my hometown to talk to them about kindness. After discussing the many ways we can be kind to others, I asked them, “How are you kind to yourself…because if you can’t be kind to yourself, how can you be kind to anyone else?” Many came up with ideas of eating well and exercising, but were stumped when I asked, “How do you talk to yourself?”
We might ask ourselves that same question.
“What are the conversations we have in our head?” Are we loving or critical, accepting or judgmental when we make mistakes or don’t measure up to our own expectations?
Sometimes we use negative self-talk when we’re not feeling good about something we’ve said or done. While it’s helpful to have an honest assessment of things, a healthy dose of love and kindness for ourselves will go a long way in ensuring that we learn from our mistakes and make any amends from a loving place.
Positive self-talk is a good place to start but it goes beyond that. How can we take care of ourselves when we’ve been taught that it’s selfish to do so? Self-care is an act of kindness. How can we take care of anyone else if we don’t care for ourselves? The airlines understand this and tell passengers, “In case of an emergency, if the oxygen masks drop, put your own mask on first before assisting children or others.”
If we’re healthy, balanced, and feel good about ourselves, we have more to give to others. But how do we make our needs as important as everyone else’s? Sometimes we have to say “no” to others in order to be loving or true to ourselves. If we do things out of love and joy, rather than obligation, we are much happier. And we can then support others to take care of themselves and be happier, too.
When we take the time to do what nourishes us, when we plan our day to include time for ourselves and the things that we love, we feel better and are less stressed. But we need to make it a priority or it doesn’t happen. For instance, when was the last time you made a date with yourself…and kept it?
Loving ourselves, living consciously, and listening to our body’s messages before illness or injury forces us to pay attention are important aspects of self-care.
I’ve had one of those dramatic wake-up calls. Mine was a smack to the head (an effective way to get the attention of an Aries), which caused me to shift my thinking and priorities. During the height of my workaholic years, I was consistently working 60 to 80 hours a week. At one point, I was preparing for my company’s 10-year anniversary celebration, as well as a major gift show, and had just hired a new sales manager. Two days before the show started, I decided to gift myself with an hour massage. After it was finished, in a rush to get back to work, I jumped off the massage table and ran smack into the sharp corner of a wall, giving myself a mild concussion. The massage therapist invited me to rest there while she went to lunch. When she returned, I sat up and just cried and cried. It was the wake-up call that I needed to realize how poorly I was taking care of myself.
At that time, I remember telling a friend: “I think of my body like a car. It gets me where I need to go. I feed it, water it, fix it when it doesn’t work well, but I don’t relate to it on a personal level.” It took an awareness of how poorly I was treating myself to finally make the choice to practice self-care and kindness. I now appreciate, pay attention to, and care for my body, mind, and spirit with the conscious intention of keeping myself healthy and happy as best as I can for as long as I’m able.
How are you practicing self-care?
Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more loving, and interconnected place. Her award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through simple acts of love and kindness. Linda believes that in order to inspire a kinder world the place to start is with children. She recently volunteered at a Title One elementary school, working with over 500 students, to create and facilitate “Kindness Starts With Me,” the results of which include a website (www.kindnessstartswithme.com) and a book for children. Also visit www.loveisthenewcurrency.com for more information and/or to sign up for an uplifting monthly newsletter.