Let me answer this one quickly – Nope.
It also doesn’t mean you don’t feel unhappy, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, sad, triggered, sharp, tired, jealous, guilt, shame, embarrassed or any of the other difficult emotions we experience throughout our lives.
So what’s the point in even trying to be kinder and more gentle to ourselves then? Great question. Let’s take a look.
The idea behind being more kind and gentle to ourselves is that we’re able to do 2 things when we react to something:
- Hold space between an event and our reaction to give us enough time to make a conscious and potentially positive choice about said reaction
- To forgive ourselves if things don’t go how we’d like them to
For example – you’ve heard a difficult piece of news that would usually leave with you a heavy or negative feeling that means you react by, say, calling a friend and offloading.
When you’re able to be kinder to yourself, through the methods that you choose (we’ll come to them later), you are likely to be able to assess the situation more objectively than before.
In doing so, you may hear the news and may even still feel heavy or negative but you are also now likely to be able to identify what that heavy or difficult feeling is, because you’ve taken a moment to check it out (i.e. ask yourself what this really is about, or distract yourself with something else before reacting). You therefore know the type of action you’d best like to take.
You may in this moment see that calling your friend to offload doesn’t actually feel great – it feels like you’re stoking the fire. Or that you always need your friend when in fact you’d love to manage this situation without him or her. So you are likely to conclude that there are other reactions and actions that might serve you better – like heading outside if you can, or writing about it, or doing something that takes your mind off of it for longer – whatever it is that suits your needs (this can’t be prescribed as such – you want it to be something you recognise as being powerful and useful to you).
But let’s say another time you hear news which leaves you similarly feeling not great and you react how you react and call your friend and you feel icky and a bit peed off and it doesn’t feel nice but you don’t have any other way to react and feel about this situation.
The thing is – it’s happened. It’s over. The reaction is done – it was your reaction. And for all the training and preventing and supporting yourself to adjust it we can’t always stop or help ourselves. We’re human, we do things sometimes illogically and at other times act in ways that don’t always help us but it doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us, simply, human.
And this is where we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge that we can now bring compassion that that part of our reaction, that part of ourselves that wanted to, or had to, act in that way.
If there are ramifications to how we acted then yes perhaps we need to work through them (e.g. apologising to anyone if we’ve hurt them) but ultimately we can only keep trying.
Life isn’t about learning and presenting ourselves as perfect beings. It’s about learning and failing and learning some more and presenting ourselves a little further.
And I say this not to preach. I say this as someone who wants to hear this also myself all the time. We are in this together – simply knowing that we’re on the path to more kindness and a gentler way feels so much better.
It also means that this way of life is quite aspirational. Instead of aspiring to an idea of perfection where we never show a negative part or live in fear of it, what feels not only aspirational but also achievable is acknowledging the full range of humanness – from kindness, calm and gentleness through to anger, jealousy, sadness or whatever it may be at the other end. We live with this full range so how about we forgive ourselves for experiencing all of them?
And yet, to admit we’re spending an hour, day, week, month or far longer at the other end isn’t easy. Whether we’re a private person or not, and however we choose to communicate these things, we must respect how it feels most empowering to us to experience or communicate our feelings. But to know that it is OK, to know that we are not a bad person and to know that by indeed encouraging the idea that we can experience the other end and still be kind and gentle to ourselves feels like a very nice place to aim for.
So, to end, I mentioned methods to being kinder and more gentle.
Well of course there are many and as I mentioned above rather than prescribing, what I’ve seen work again and again is that asking good questions about what it means to you is the best place to start.
So my question – what does being kinder and more gentle mean to you? How could you go about achieving this in just one way today?