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  • Writer's pictureHyung

A different kind of kind. What is kindness to self?

One struggle I have: the notion of 'being kind to oneself'. It's everywhere, on every other post, every other podcast, every other self-help book. But I don't always know how.

I've done a lot of unkind things to myself in the name of being kind. The "I just gave birth, I deserve to eat whatever the heck I want" brand of self-kindness gave me a whole lot of unkind sugar addiction, day-after remorse for eating, and paralysis for action that lasted for months.

I've also been frequently unkind to myself emotionally: the constant "not good enough" self-talk that millennials are familiar with. In an unvalidated theory, I rationalize that it has something to do with growing up with much as a generation ("if you try, you can reach the stars!") wrapped in imperfect systems and unrealistic expectations. We expect much back from ourselves ("I should be able to reach the stars and make them shine immediately but here I am struggling to adult, to love, and to grow"). A kind of high self-expectation that devastates instead of builds up. Unvalidated, but still, unkind.

The unkind things can be physical; for some it is dramatic and sometimes even dark. For most, it is a nagging neglect amidst the daily drill that turns into a slow burn out, where we are running on "low battery, 5% please charge immediately" status all year round.

It's made me explore the brand of kindness I want to stand behind. It is one that balances indulgence & discipline. Kindness to self doesn't necessitate a state of being mindless and limitless. It can (should?) be intentional and have boundaries. It doesn't have to consist only of easy and comfortable things. It can require strength and courage.

When I spiral down an emotional path of resentment, the easy and mindless thing to do is to wallow with friends who see only my side of the story as quickly as algorithms navigate the next suggested post. Thankfully, I've also had loved ones acknowledge my pain whilst journeying with me through the spiral and subsequent (many failed and some successful) attempts at forgiveness. That attempt - arduous and possibly unwarranted - that is kindness unto self.

When I sink into the sofa after a long day of spending every waking moment reasoning with a toddler or reasoning at work, unlimited access to ice-cream seems kindness unto self. And it probably is; I think it is kindness to let yourself binge, especially if you can live up to the commitment to not 'feel bad' after. I think it is greater kindness to take a step back to evaluate whether it is unhealthy food that I really want, or just to rest. I think it is the greatest kindness to plan ahead so that I know that this cycle of exhausted binging has the opportunity to break for the better. Nothing about these options is easy and mindless, but everything about it is kind.

Lastly, when the 'not good enough' theme song starts playing in your head and giving up seems to be the logical kindness to self... I suppose it's kindness to remember that stepping away is an option, as real as any. Should the song manifest as defensiveness, kindness may be to accept that we all have insecurities. It may also be the most effective way of not being crushed by it. The most vulnerable but promising kind of kindness seems to be in letting yourself show up as you are (and loving it). Easy? No. Kind? I think so.

An intentional mindlessness, some sort of boundaried limitlessness. A comfort and peace that requires courage, strength and character. What a bunch of oxymoronic nonsense. What an exquisite step closer to the kind of kindness I want to gift myself. What a way to begin a journey to genuinely extend kindness to others.

First posted on Instagram in July 2021

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