Self-kindness is the cessation of negative self-talk. It means that you’ve made an intentional choice to stop judging yourself for your suffering. By stepping back from your judgmental impulses, you’ll have the power to understand your shortcomings and learn from them rather than condemning yourself for failing to live up to an impossibly high ideal.
Practicing self-kindness is important because human beings are wired for care. Oxytocin, the hormone for care and bonding, is triggered in moments that you feel safe. Oxytocin gets to work when a mother soothes her child after they awaken from a nightmare or when a spouse hugs you after a rough day.
When you give comfort to yourself, you’re triggering your body’s oxytocin supply, and your self-care has a tangible, chemical effect on your body. In addition to a non-judgmental, neutral attitude, self-kindness includes actively comforting yourself. When you feel embarrassed about a botched presentation at work, you might offer yourself words of comfort, just as you would for a cherished friend.
Tell yourself, “I’m sorry you feel upset,” or, “Embarrassment is difficult.” You might even hold yourself in a loving embrace so you can feel a physical sense of comfort. During your next difficult moment, see if you can step back from the situation, recognize your suffering, and ask yourself what you can do to give yourself some friendly comfort.
Maybe you can take yourself out for a cup of coffee, enjoy a short nap, or read your favorite poem to help yourself feel better. Self-kindness also provides a certain amount of distance between you and your suffering. When you show comfort to yourself, you’re acknowledging your pain, but you’re also playing the role of the caregiver.
In other words, you’re simultaneously the one who suffers and the one who comforts. This duality enables you to identify with something other than your suffering, which helps you stay grounded when negative self-talk threatens to overwhelm you.
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