Yes, you read the title correctly. I’m not going to tell you to be nice to your neighbors or your brother or your classmates or your mom. I’m not going to tell you that you should be nice because karma exists and you want to rack up as many “good” karma points as you can today just in case you’re having a bad day tomorrow. I’m going to tell you about a way to see kindness in my own life; a way that it has changed my life. It’s as simple as this: Be kind to yourself.
Think of the word, “kindness.” Think of how you act out kindness towards other people. Is kindness your default mode or does someone have to earn it? How do you want others to treat you? Do you expect kindness from others or is it just a pleasant surprise? Do you wish you were nicer? Are you maybe too nice sometimes? Now pause. Is this how you treat yourself? Do you treat yourself with the same kindness you give others? If others are worthy of your benevolence, are you not?
Kindness is multi-faceted, whether it is towards others or towards yourself. It involves patience, awareness, honesty, and perseverance. But above all else, you, the giver of compassion, must believe that whomever it is that you are being nice to deserves your kindness. This is easy when the recipient is someone who is nice to you. When this is not the case, the giving of kindness can become a bit more of a challenge.
But what about when the recipient is yourself? How do you even “be kind” to yourself? Kindness is most often understood as a form of extending a pure, gentle love to another person through action. We often think of “acts of kindness” or saying nice things to someone. But kindness extends much further, and much closer, than simply our occasionally overly benevolent actions towards others. I believe that kindness can be a way of speaking, thinking, loving, and most of all, a way of treating yourself.
How might you do this? Start with being aware of what you feel – what you’re thinking, how your body feels, what you’re feeling, why you may be feeling that way, and how others make you feel. Be honest with yourself because kindness begins with honesty. And with this awareness and honesty with yourself and your heart, be gentle with yourself. You’re not always going to get everything right – whether it be in school, work, or relationships. People make mistakes. It’s okay. Even when things go wrong, be kind to yourself and you will learn and heal from your own kindness.
Be kind to your body; treat it like a temple. Be kind to your thoughts; don’t force ideas into your head. Listen to your thoughts and to your body and to your intuition and learn from it. Be honest about what you’re good at and be proud of that. But be just as honest about what you’re not and be open to learn, to change, to grow, to challenge yourself, and to love yourself. The beauty of kindness is that it begins with honesty and cultivates love – two things the world could always use a little more of.
I leave you with a poem from Mother Teresa. As said by the true speaker of words of wisdom, no matter what happens today, tomorrow, in life, or in your heart, “Be kind anyway.”
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.”
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The Words of Wisdom Column, Lia Vosti:
Lia Vosti is an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, majoring in Bioengineering. Growing up together, her words always made the most obscure situations crisp and clear. She is the up and coming Renaissance woman, able to give homely advise after a day in the lab, and wise beyond her years.