Why should I be kind to myself?
Howdy internet friend and welcome back to my blog!
I am writing to you on a rare Saturday night and I am looking at a list I started a few weeks ago of essays I wanted to write.1 First on the list is this essay, which also matches up with something on a list I made for myself and my self-care practice. Self-compassion is an important part of this practice, and in that context it made sense for me to write this essay as a note to myself. I also believe it is a win because I can start and finish the essay in one night. I am writing this partially for you, dear reader, but I am also doing this as a meditation for myself. What I mean by that is that I am going to be writing this both as an essay for a wider audience as well as a letter to myself from my younger (and in the past) self. I think you can benefit from it too, but just keep in mind that unlike almost every other essay I’ve written for this blog, I am writing it mostly to myself and it will read that way. I hope that you find benefit from it but if you don’t want to go along for this particularly experience, I totally understand!
I don’t just want to talk about kindness though. I want to use this essay as an opportunity to explore some success concepts I’ve been thinking about. Between finishing and writing my review of Think and Grow Rich and making goals for my future, I’ve been frequently thinking about success these days. While I know that people are suffering right now, and I want to acknowledge their struggle, I also want to mention that there are tremendous opportunities right now as the market and the world shifts and expands in new directions. There will be organizations that are left behind as they wait for things to go back to normal and new companies formed that take advantage of the shift in the ability to work from home. As important as it is for me to discuss kindness, I also want to take the opportunity to share some thoughts I’ve had on success as well. I believe that being successful has helped my kindness practice and I think that everyone can benefit from investing time in thinking about how they can be more successful in whatever is more important to you.
One final note before I begin, I have previously written in my review of Think and Grow Rich that I started reading a book co-written by one of the authors wives (and master mind collaborator of Think and Grow Rich Rosa Lee Hill) and it is an amazingly wild ride so far! While I am only about twenty five pages in, the author says that their personal philosophy was inspired by a conversation she had as a young girl with her father. She wrote he said, “… always remember you cannot please everybody, so try to please yourself.”2 This struck me as really profound advice (albeit a little selfish) because I consider myself something of a people-pleaser. I try really hard to be a nice person and I want to make the world a better place. Sometimes that means I will go out of my way to do nice things for people. However, it is important for me to remember that I cannot please everybody and there are always going to be people who don’t like you. There are going to be people who are offended by your politics, or the way you dress, or your tattoos, or your wife, or any number of a million things that are outside your control. You can control what you think about and and how you talk to and treat yourself. That’s why I wrote this essay - to remind myself that I can’t control what other people think or do, I get to control what I think about and what I do. No one lives rent-free in my head unless I let them, so try to fill your thoughts with positive things rather than bringing yourself down or getting angry about things outside your control. Everyone around you will thank you for it! Without any further adieu, let’s begin this analysis of why you should be kind to yourself.
Quick disclaimer before we start
Person reading this essay, if you do not want to make yourself or the world better, stop reading this right now! Close the browser (or if this one day ends up in a book, shut the book and give it to someone you hate) and leave this page because this essay and the stuff I write is not for you.3 I am assuming that if you are still reading that you are not happy with the way the world is right now either. You see injustice and you think, “this is totally bullcrap! We can do something about this.” If this is how you think than good, keep reading! That feeling in your gut is good - it tells you that a better world is possible. If you start to think things are perfect you aren’t spending enough time thinking and looking outside yourself, and that’s not great. But you know, the purpose of this essay is why you should be kind to yourself, and I want to point out that it is possible to fall in to the trap of being harsh to yourself easily if you are not careful.
One of the things that I keep coming back to when it comes to self care is remember that, like many things, it is a practice. It’s important to remember that if we were already prefect there would be no need for practice. But pobody’s nerfect, and we need to be kind to ourselves because sometimes, if we aren’t, then no one else will be! Indeed our own self talk is something that we can control, and if the voice in our head starts to tell us that we aren’t great, we need to tell the voice that it is wrong! Sure, it’s possible that you are not destined for greatness. However, I think that people who have a purpose and a drive in life and who work hard to achieve it are generally able to achieve. My Dad started a business selling safety equipment and racing fuel to sport car racers across the Pacific Northwest. This means I got to spend summers growing up around really high achievers - the kind of people who made enough money that they were able to have very expensive hobbies like racing sports cars. I have seen people with race cars that cost more than some houses that they race on the track, at speed, against other cars. What these people had in common was a drive to not only succeed, but to be the best. No one spends the time, money, and energy to be a race car driver to finish in second place! People who race drive to win and I learned from watching those people all my life that if you have a single minded purpose that anyone can succeed.
Pause for a moment and think about the most successful person you know. While it is possible that they sometimes have negative thoughts (because they are human) do you think that they spend the majority of their time getting down on themselves? Do you think they focus on their failures and screw-ups, or do you think they occupy their mind with more positive thoughts? Do you think they sit around watching TV during all their non-working hours or do you think they invest a few hours each day putting in extra work?
Wait a second Dave! You are writing an article suggesting that both you and anyone reading this be kind to themselves, and then you are suggesting they put in extra work? More work? What?! Actually, dear reader, if you look closely you’ll notice that I am not suggesting you do extra work in my essay on kindness, but rather asking whether you think successful people spend all the time relaxing or whether they find time each day for projects as well? Or, rather, I think that there is benefit to thinking about how successful people spend their time. To be sure, I have no doubt they spend time watching movies or TV and just relaxing. However, I bet they also either wake up early or stay up late to work towards achieving their goals. Reading all the books on success that I have been lately has focused me on the subject and I thought I would share some of these thoughts with you, dear reader! I think this is also a nice (and very meta) chance to pause the essay and practice kindness in real time.
Dave, I forgive you for failing to focus entirely in this essay! I am going to extend you the kindness of forgiveness in this essay without changing it so you can see that even (especially) in an essay on kindness, it is possible to fail and not be kind enought to yourself. Seeing this visible failure each time you revisit the essay will remind you that this is a practice and it can only improve with active and ongoing effort. You are good enough, you are nice, and your family loves you so very much! You are the most fortunate person you know because you get to spend every day with the people you love most, and it is hard to think of anything much better than that. As you write this, you get to look at art made for you by people who love you, in a nice office with an amp that allows you to rock. This is the best your life has ever been, ever so much better than you ever could have imagined. Hard work has paid off for me, and it can pay off for you too!
Now that we have paused for the kindness practice, let us return to the subject of the power of positive thinking. I can tell you, since making the change to more positive thinking I’ve seen an improvement in my happiness and general well-being and am here to highly recommend it to you, dear reader!
Practical list for a self-care practice
Here is a list that I’ve been working on for my self-care practice. If you have any suggestions please don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter and I will add them, update this list and essay (if they are really great) and give you props!
- Playing music
- Saying no
- Finding good in a thing that seems bad
Some of these were found in an article on self-care that I have unfortunately lost. If and when I find it again I will be sure to give credit to the author and update this post accordingly. Others on the list I’ve added because they personally help me find comfort and joy. Playing music is a wonderful experience for me, and one that is fun both alone and (often even more fun) with others. One of my coping mechanisms for dealing with the Coronavirus has been to think about all the cool things we can do when the pandemic is over. My wife and I have been writing songs for the last few weeks and I am really looking forward to being able to play shows again when it’s all over! Playing music with another person is really fun, but playing in front of an audience is magical. It’s being able to come together with people for something that can only ever happen once. I always liked writing music that was different every night, and that’s something I plan on keeping going moving forward.
On that subject, I’ve been spending substantial time over the last few weeks thinking about writing songs and learning music theory. Before I wrote songs mostly on the accoustic guitar and only for one person (what I called solo singer-songwriter stuff). Now I have an electric guitar, a bass, amps, and a drummer, I’ve been writing wildly different songs and studying music theory again so we can do more interesting things and write more unique songs with different keys besides C! Getting back to playing music is taking me back to more simple times, and being able to create new things is a wonderful form of catharsis. Unlike the last time I made music, I am trying to be more patient with myself and rather than just doing the same thing over and again, I am stretching myself to do something new, better, and more cool!
I want to end this section by writing that you don’t have to buy a guitar or learn music theory to write music. You can get a ukulele and teach yourself how to play in about five minute (although like all instruments it takes a lifetime to be great at it). You don’t have to invest years of time and efforts along with hundreds of dollars. You can get a ukulele for very little bread and you can be writing songs in no time! If you didn’t know, you can use the G, C, and D chords in any order, mix them up and they will sound great. You can use them to write a bunch of songs. Many songwriters have done it before - I wrote so many songs using some mixture of chords. Now you can too, if you want!
In closing, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this essay. I have found that being kind to myself isn’t always as easy as it might seem. That is alright, I think it is important and helpful to acknowledge when things are a struggle. However, I also think it is helpful to remember that all practices requires work and effort, and it is no big deal if it doesn’t come easy. Many of the best things in life require work and effort, so it isn’t a bad thing that this practice might as well. I would recommend if you are struggling with self-care and being kind to yourself that you make a list for your own practice. Feel free to use mine as a starting point and add or remove things as you see fit. I’ve found this helpful in building my practice, and I think it’s great if you want to use my list as a starting point to build your own!
Two final notes. First, I want to give a shout out and greetz to my friend @Blenster who is an inspiration with his kindness campaigns, in particular his efforts to encourage us to be kind and love each other. I was so glad to meet him at DC27 and I am very proud to call him a friend! Second, I have been learning markdown little by little as I’ve needed it, and in writing this post I got a bunch of help from this website and I wanted to give credit where it was due. If you are looking for a nice syntax guide for Markdown (or if Dave is reading this later in an effort to bolster his kindness practice) here is a link to a nice article!
- I say rare because I prefer spending my evenings with my wife but she wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. I stayed up and worked on this really long essay I’ve been writing on my political philosophy (presently over 5,000 words and growing) and now I am writing this essay, editing it, and going to bed. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW WRITERS LIKE ME PARTY ON A SATURDAY NIGHT! WRITING STUFF ABOUT SELF-CARE! That sounded angry, I’m actually having a blast! [return]
- In the event that you didn’t read the post and/or you don’t have the time to check it out right now, the book I am quote here is called, How to Attract Men and Money - an intimate revelation for Women past eighteen. With some facts Men ought to know - especially those who wish to stage a come-back after experiencing defeat. By Rosa Lee Hill and the first twenty-five pages has been really something wild! [return]
- If you are wondering why I would suggest giving this book to a person you hate, that’s because the kind of person who doesn’t want the world to be a better place will be hated by people that are actually cool. You know, the kind of people who read footnotes and want the world to be a better place! [return]