• Melissa Koons

Be Kinder to Yourself

Be Kinder to Yourself.

It's easy to be over-worked and over-stressed. Living is hard work. There are bills to be paid, family and personal relationship obligations, work, career, and personal passions. Sometimes it seems that you have a handle on everything and you're juggling balls in the air with perfect balance and speed. Then you get tossed a new one and it messes up your balance and suddenly you're doing all you can to keep up and not let the balls come crashing down in an avalanche of dreams.

It's exhausting.

It's terrifying.

It's temporary.

For some people it's hard to say "no, I'm at my limit with all I can handle right now. No more balls to juggle, please." Sometimes, you don't have the option of saying "no," you just have to take it on because there is no other solution. Times like these happen and they will always happen. It is just a phase and it, too, will pass but it will also happen again because life is just a series of cycles. The best way to cope and manage these cycles when it feels like you're juggling swords instead of balls, and too many at that, is to be kinder to yourself.

Being kinder to yourself means giving yourself a break. It doesn't mean dropping all the balls on the floor and running away from your responsibilities, but it means cutting yourself some slack.

Here are 5 ways to be kinder to yourself on a daily basis:

1. Remind yourself that no one has all the answers. Everyone is just trying to make their own way and figure out how to best achieve happiness in their own lives. No one knows the secret, even if they market to you that they do. The truth is that it's different for everyone. What works for you and brings you happiness might not be the same for someone else.

Since no one has the answers that means it is okay that you don't have them, either. It's okay that you are still figuring it out. It's okay that you have moments in your life when you don't know the solution. No one has all the answers and you are no exception.

2. Trial and error. Because no one has all the answers and the answer is different for everyone anyway, there is only one process to discover what the solution is for you and your life and that is trial and error. Gather information, seek advice, make an informed choice, and then just give it a try and see what happens. You will fail, that's part of the process. Not everything is going to work out, but you have no way of knowing what will and what won't be successful until you try.

3. Failure is a verb. Since the only way to figure out what will and won't work on your journey to happiness is trial and error, it's inevitable that you will fail. Probability says that you'll fail a lot. That does not make YOU a failure. Failure is a verb. It is an action and a response. It is not a noun. It is not a person. Don't beat yourself up over something that didn't work. Since no one has all the answers, there was no way for you to know that it wouldn't work when you tried it. Instead of internalizing the failure, look at it instead as a learned experience. Just like all the great scientists of the world: you have to learn from your mistakes so that you can create something incredible.

4. Try again. There are dozens, even hundreds, of paths our life can go and we always have a choice. If something didn't work out, that's okay. It hurts, yes. It's a blow to the ego, to the heart, and sometimes to the bank account, but it's not the end of the line. You can make a different choice and try a different path if the previous one didn't work out. If you tried a new career and accumulated loads of student debt only to find out that you hate it and it crushes your soul to go to work, it's okay not to continue down that path and to choose a new one. The baggage doesn’t go away, you still have to deal with that, but you don't have to live with a choice that's not working for the rest of your life just because that was the path you chose to walk at the time.

As long as you are learning from your choices—what works, what doesn't—then it wasn't really a lost endeavor. You got a valuable experience out of it and now you know what NOT to do or what didn't work for you and your pursuit of happiness. The problem comes when we struggle to see the failure for what it is—a try that didn't go the way we hoped it would—and internalize it, allowing it to knock us down. If you don't get back up and try something else, that's the moment you've really failed.

5. It's okay to step back. You can only carry the weight of the world for so long. Even Atlas shrugged the job off onto Hercules for a while. We all need a break and it is okay for you to take one. You can't expect someone else to carry on without a break forever, so you can't expect it of yourself either. Set the juggling act down for a moment and allow yourself some time to rest, process, and regroup. Obviously, timing plays a factor. You can't just up and leave your kids at soccer practice to get a massage, but you can plan for a babysitter and take a few hours to go get one. You can't just walk out of work, but you can take a bathroom break, splash some water on your face, and practice deep breathing.

Make time for you when and where you can. Take the small moments and allow yourself the opportunity to relax your shoulders and set everything aside for that moment so you can just be.

For many people, it's easier to give kindness to others—it's something we've been taught to do since preschool—but it's much more difficult to turn that practice around and use it on ourselves. Imagine telling someone else to do the things you believe you have to do. Would that be good advice, or would it be cruel to tell someone they could never take a vacation or a sick day, or that they have to say "yes" to every social invitation no matter how tired they are? If you wouldn't tell someone else to do it, then you need to be kinder to yourself and recognize the unrealistic and unnecessary pressure you're putting on yourself.


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