When we falter in the game of life, make bad decisions and watch our dreams crumble down in front of our eyes, what do we need to get through such difficult times? We need immense inner strength to face the consequences of our own choices and someone to hear us out patiently and non-judgmentally. Most of all, we need an extra dose of belief in ourselves – faith in our abilities and goodness – and in the justice of life, so we can pick up the pieces and start over again. But rather than moving in this direction to heal ourselves, what do we do? We take the doomed road of self bashing and blaming, and go on a guilt trip. We abandon ourselves completely when we most need our support, and probably don’t even realise it.
What kind of a person we are is usually measured by how well we treat others. But an oft-missed, yet crucial, determining factor here is how kindly we treat ourselves. Not many will get a good report card in this department because we are rarely aware of what goes on in our inner world. We hardly pause to look into it, leave aside shaping it well. As a result, we end up treating ourselves just as the world does, rather than taking care of ourselves as a close and considerate friend.
Kindness towards self lies at the centre of all we receive in life. How much we value and trust ourselves, how well we use our resources of time, breath, thought and others, forms the basis of our wellbeing. We must plan wisely for our personal growth and push ourselves to do better. At the same time, we must also ensure that we stop and stand by ourselves when things do not go so well, especially when there is no one to cheer us on.
This does not mean that we ignore our shortcomings or rationalise our weaknesses. It just means that we do not lose patience with ourselves when we are not in our best form; we maintain our self-esteem even in moments of trial; we do not act as a fair-weather friend who stays happy when we succeed and departs when failure strikes. As long as we engage with ourselves with such basic respect, trust and commitment, we will always have a chance of bouncing back in life. The superstructure of our growth and achievements is based in this very honest friendship with ourselves.
An essential aspect shaping us is the quality of self-talk. Imagine a child who is brought up in a family of large-hearted individuals, who encourage him to bring out the best he is blessed with, and guide and motivate him to get up when he falls down. And then compare him to another child born into a household where falling down is considered bad, and criticism and disciplining are the order of the day. There is bound to be a world of difference in the confidence level of the two because of the difference in the love and respect received.
Without the nourishment of self-love, we cannot go far. So, it is really important to watch and enhance the tone, vocabulary and feelings that we communicate to ourselves. Unchecked, random and negative conversations in our mind cause us a great deal of damage, and so it is good to transform our self-talk from ‘I can’t do it’ to ‘come on, let’s do it’, from ‘how could you act like this’ to ‘let me try again’.
Another way to give ourselves the kindness cushion is to forget the stories of the past. The habit of holding on to past hurt keeps our heart bleeding. The acidic emotions keep corroding us from within – sapping our enthusiasm and dampening our passion. On the other hand, when we practise to let go of the drama of life scene by scene, and make it a habit to surrender ourselves to the Almighty at the end of the day, we remain light and recharged. However difficult it may seem, developing the will to move on is a non-negotiable, a must-do step towards self-care and progress. It is one of the biggest ways to have mercy on ourselves.
So, let’s make space in our day to sit with ourselves, introspect, and inspire change from inside out. Let’s tweak our inner dialogue by consciously infusing spirit, sweetness and more honesty into it every now and then. The more we listen to and respond to our inner world with love, the better we shall become, and the more kindness will flow from us to the rest of the world. Taking care of ourselves independently, gracefully is no less than an achievement today.