building kindness everyday

Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.

photo by Thomas Barwick

“Each person has an ideal, a hope, a dream which represents the soul. We must give to it the warmth of love, the light of understanding and the essence of encouragement.”
– Colby Dorr Dam

So, the truth is, I’m a little hard on myself. That may be because of my Spina Bifida- I always felt like I could be doing *better* and if I stopped trying to improve myself, I might slide way back and just lose everything. So I ride myself, hard.

When I was younger, it was a soul-crashing harsh, hateful criticism. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve mellowed. Now it’s become more like a sort of “well-meaning coach” behavior.

But the truth is, I *know* myself well-enough at this stage in my life to understand how I function, and what makes me thrive. For instance- when I’m struggling in the pool and really not wanting to finish that last mile or whatever, I know for certain that if I push myself and force myself to get through it, I will be FAR more happier for the rest of the day than if I am super compassionate to myself and just call it a day.

However, when I became a mom, I realized that my behavior was being closely observed by my daughter. And I didn’t want her to grow up treating herself harshly. I wanted to model love and compassion for herself along with inspiration and courage. So I needed to figure out how to be kinder to myself.

I realized very quickly that I’m not the type of person who *chooses* kindness for herself. I wouldn’t go out of my way to make things easier or more joyful for myself. That’s just not who I am. So I needed a different approach to self-kindness.

What works for me is building kindness into my every day. What I mean by that is making conscious choices every single day that will ultimately provide me with abundant opportunities to show myself kindness. And here’s how I do it:

– Long-lasting Indulgences
You probably know by now I’m obsessed with tea. I drink a lot of it, and I really enjoy it. When I started drinking tea, I made a decision to let tea be less of a beverage and more of a ritual for me. So what I have done over time is build up a large collection of loose teas of all flavors and kinds. Right now I have over 50 canisters of tea in my kitchen, and I wouldn’t blink an eye at getting more.

It’s not cheap, but the truth is one canister of tea that will last months is about the same cost as a trip to Starbucks. So it’s not a ridiculous expense. But it feels very decadent. Every day when I open that drawer, and see all the flavors and varieties and smell all the different gorgeous teas wafting up, I get really happy. And every time I buy tea, I know I am investing in my well-being, and it’s ultimately an act of self-kindness is that is VERY easy to do and makes everyday life that much better.

I do the same thing with art supplies, seeds for the garden, etc. I regularly make small splurges on things that I know will bring regular bursts of joy into my every day life. And these things really do make a huge difference.

So I invite you to indulge yourself- yes, even in *this* economy. I’m not urging you to go out and buy a Mercedes or book a weekend at a Spa across the world. I’m not urging you to drop $40 or $200 every time you leave the house on fancy things. What I am suggesting is to buy that gourmet fresh-ground coffee that you will enjoy every single morning for the next few weeks, go to the colorful boutique in town and get yourself that beautiful sweater that will keep your warm for years to come, indulge in that creamy, thick-paged journal and fancy fountain pen that will bring you joy every time you sit down to write a little bit about your day.

 

– Thinking Ahead
This is a *big* tip. Seriously. And it takes a lot of practice, but once you do it regularly, it will become second nature. And here it is: consider your future self. And do things that will make it easier for her.

What I mean is this… when you are going about your daily routines, take a moment every so often to think “is there something I can do now, something that isn’t a big deal, that will benefit my future self?” Can you throw a load of laundry in to save yourself a few minutes later? Can you call the doctor to reschedule that appointment now instead of dreading it all afternoon? Can you package up that stuff and get it ready to be mailed instead of running around like a mad person at 4:30pm trying to get it done before the post office closes? Can you water the plants now before the sun hits the yard and it gets really uncomfortable? Can you start throwing some stuff together for dinner now rather than waiting until everyone gets cranky and hungry later?

Whatever it is you do everyday, just keep your mind open for ways you can make life easier for your future self. Seriously. I know it sounds wacky, but you’d be surprised at how much joy it can bring when you are feeling rushed and hectic and realized that something is ALREADY DONE. It’s like this huge gift- five or ten free minutes to just NOT rush, not be anxious, not have to multi-task.

Thinking ahead is a true and very simple way of being kind to yourself.

 

– Treat Yourself like a Kid
When I became a mom, I realized that I couldn’t possibly address my daughter like an adult. I’ve NEVER been a fan of babytalk, and didn’t do that, but I chose a different set of words, tones and approaches to communicate with her.

And one day I decided to try the same strategy with *myself*. What would happen if I addressed myself a little more kindly? Instead of dogging myself for wanting to slack off in the pool, or giving in to the urge to quit,
what would happen if I said to myself “you’re doing great, you’re so strong, just a few more laps!”?

I have to admit, the first few times I did it, I felt… icky. But, surprisingly, it worked. I felt a lot more motivated to swim those miles when I felt like I was kicking some butt. I liked it so much I did it more and more until it become my new normal.

In addition to cultivating a kinder relationship with myself it had an unexpected bonus- I started treating everyone else with more kindness. Instead of wanting to rant and rave at the slow drivers that populate Florida, I noticed myself saying “c’mon, you can do it! Drive speed limit, you can do it!” (Well, I wasn’t always sweet about it, but it was better than a string of unmentionable words, you know?) I found myself a little more encouraging to my husband, even when he was frustrating me. I found myself relating better to my parents and my peers, offering up encouragement much more often.

That led to improved relationships which led to more day-to-day happiness.

 

… so, there are quite a few things you can do to build more kindness into your every day life- invest in some long-term indulgences, plan ahead, and treat yourself like a kid. I’m sure there are many others, as well. The key to this is awareness. And remember, any time you show yourself a little kindness, it really DOES have an effect on everyone around you, whether you realize it or not.

 

…. Bliss Habits has an assignment for *you* in this back-to-school season!

Bliss Habits will be starting up an interactive book club on the first week of October. The first book is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Each week, on Tuesday, we’ll be discussing one chapter of the book and then carrying the discussion into the comments and on the Bliss Habits facebook page. We’ll be sharing reactions, responses, inspiration, questions, and just generally working through the book, one chapter at a week, as a community.

I truly hope you’ll join us. It’s a great opportunity to “do” the book in a focused and organized way, and really have the benefit of a supportive community that’s along for the ride with you. Even if you’ve read it before, please consider giving us the benefit of your expertise!

It all starts October 2nd, 2012.


Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.

4 thoughts on “building kindness everyday

  1. Like you, Chel, I ride myself hard… Having chronic fatigue, time when I’m doing relatively OK, I push so hard to do what I can, get done what I can…Not always smart, but like you said, I don’t want to slide back. But I do try to be aware of my limits, and when I need to go slower. kind self-care is essential then. I notice when I’m kinder to myself, it’s so much easier to be even more kind to others. :o)

  2. Chel, those tips are fantastic! The being kind to your future self especially resonates, because I was almost there in my thinking. I have definitely said, “Woah, thanks past self!” in a silly way when I realize I’ve done stuff to make life simpler. To make a practice of it, though, is great, I had just never thought of it in quite those terms before. That is the best argument for giving up procrastinating!!

    And I always forget to talk to myself like a kid. I try so hard to be patient with Homer, but am not with myself. The really crazy part is that even though my mom *told* me so many great things about myself and never once made me feel dumb for anything, I picked up her own habit of talking negatively to herself. So even if I’m great with Homer, if I want him to really be nice to himself, I have to REALLY be kind to MYself. I really do!! So thank you for that reminder to be gentle to the children we ALL are. 🙂

    And I do love your explanation on the long lasting indulgences. I’m going to implement all of these. I love these suggestions so much!

  3. Sandra says:

    Thank you for a very inspirational post, Chel!

    Recently, I’ve been asking myself, “What can I do that will bring the most peace to me/my home/my relationships?” It is hard sometimes to answer that question, but I think I am making some progress.

    I too need to be kinder to myself. I do a lot of self-name-calling and negative predicting of the future. I’m gonna try to do better, though!

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