If there’s one person you’ve probably been spending a lot more time with this past year, it’s you. So. How’s that been going?
As an introvert, parts of me are thriving in isolation but, honestly, sometimes spending all day with myself can be hard on my mental health. I’m a natural encourager of others, but somehow this characteristic shorts out when directed inward. Instead, left unchecked, an endless reel of criticisms will roll through my mind, nitpicking everything I do or do not do.
I can end up feeling worn out by the end of a long day with me.
I’ve found that one of the most relentless parts of adulting is learning to manage that internal voice—and, for me, that involves trying to keep the voice speaking words of kindness. I mean, as a parent, if I overheard my child talking to another human the way my brain sometimes talks to me, I would be all over that. Training. Adjusting. Redirecting.
Could you use some reminders on how to be gentle and compassionate with yourself in your everyday life? Here are a few ideas to get you started. I’d love to hear yours as well. Leave them in the comments!
1. Be your own friend.
Imagine a neighbor telling you she’d driven all the way to the hardware store and forgotten her wallet at home. Would you scold her? Ask what’s wrong with her? Of course not. You’d groan with her, tell her how you’ve done that very thing yourself, point out that everyone’s brains seem to be forgetting things these days. You’d laugh about it together.
What if the next time you legitimately frustrate yourself, you still choose to talk to yourself the way you would speak to a friend? Imagine the level of audacious kindness you could unleash into your day.
So…what if the next time you legitimately frustrate yourself, you still choose to talk to yourself the way you would speak to a friend? Imagine the level of audacious kindness you could unleash into your day.
2. Treat yourself like a guest sometimes.
The last time I spent the night at a friend’s house, I heard her clattering around in the kitchen after I’d retreated to the guest room for bed. The next morning when I got up (earlier than her) I realized she’d set out everything I needed to make myself some eggs and tea (knowing that was my favorite). What a kind and thoughtful way to wake up.
What if we did this for ourselves once in a while? Consider giving yourself a nice treat to wake up to tomorrow? Maybe a clean kitchen? A freshly laundered shirt? A full tank of gas?
3. Treat yourself like a host once in a while too.
When you’re a guest at someone else’s house, do you ever find yourself doing things you don’t always do at home? For me it’s wiping out the bathroom sink after I use it, making my bed, and bringing my snack plate back to the kitchen when I’m done. I’ve noticed myself thinking, I don’t want to make more work for [my friend] later on, so I’ll just keep things tidy as I go.
Again…what if? What if we brought that kind of thoughtfulness home? What if your current self sometimes made choices that would delight your future self?
4. Practice kind housekeeping.
There are kind and unkind ways to keep house. Unkind housekeeping sounds like: Look at that mess. Wow, you’re a slob. Clearly you don’t know how to clean a bathtub. You can’t let anyone see the living room looking like that. Your mother would be so disappointed.
Kind housekeeping says things like: Done is better than perfect (and sometimes not done is better than done). Won’t it feel nice once this kitchen is clean? Great job on those dust bunnies. Let’s do one quick swish and swipe in the bathroom and call it good.
Kind housekeeping does things like setting a timer to contain chore time, celebrating small wins, embracing imperfection, and rewarding solid efforts. And, most importantly, kind housekeeping knows that your value as a human is never ever measured by the cleanliness of your home (or car, or bedroom, or workspace).
5. Make a list. Any list.
As I move throughout my day, an endless parade of extraneous things are vying for my attention. How about you? I’m out of mayo, I need to buy more. That nail hole needs to be patched. Where’s the hammer? It’s time to bring the spring clothing bin up from the laundry room. I need to call the plumber about that leaky pipe.
I find that scribbling these things onto a running list (or various different scraps of paper around the house) is kind and helpful to myself. First, it prevents the crushing disappointment of craving a BLT and finding no mayo. Also, it prevents the mean things I might say to myself about the fact that I forgot to get more mayo. And, most importantly, it keeps all those little to-dos from chirping around in my brain all day long while I try to do my actual work-from-home job.
I’m not talking about neat, organized, alphabetized lists here, people. I’m saying just write it down on anything you can refer to later. Then entrust it to your entirely capable future self, and let it go.
6. Follow the #1 rule of kindness: Don’t judge.
My favorite Instagram accounts are the ones that—at least occasionally—show how much work went into taking that perfect photo. Or, even better, the ones that show how that living room or person actually looks in normal, everyday, unstaged, unlighted life.
One of the least kind things you can do for yourself is expect your day to look like an Instagram account or a Pinterest image and to judge yourself by unrealistic standards. On certain days those photos are probably going to make you feel even more critical of yourself than usual. On those days, the kindest thing to do for yourself might be to take a pass on social media.
7. Practice radical gratitude.
What if the thoughts running on a loop through your mind sounded like this:
I’m grateful to have a home; I know some do not. I’m grateful for the dirt; it means life is being lived. I’m grateful for the freedom to choose whether I sweep that floor today or tomorrow or never. I’m grateful for breath, I’m grateful for this day, and I’m grateful for long walks in fresh air, even when it brings a little more dirt back into my home.
How might thoughts like those impact your day? Your mood? Your choices?
8. Send yourself a kind message.
Instead of relying on that pesky internal voice of yours, consider leaving yourself a kind written message here and there—filled with the type of truth you want yourself to remember. Write a kind note and leave it next to the cleaning supplies so you’ll find it the next time you pull them out. Schedule a reminder on your phone with a kind, encouraging thought. Or write yourself a note using a site like this that can be delivered to you next week, next month, or even a few years down the road.
Instead of relying on that pesky internal voice of yours, consider leaving yourself a kind written message here and there—filled with the type of truth you want yourself to remember.
9. Call a friend.
Nothing compares to hearing the voice of someone who cares about you. If you can’t be with someone in person, treat yourself to a phone call (or an emoji-rich text stream). Vent. Process. Commisserate. Laugh. Be heard, be affirmed, be encouraged.
10. Buy yourself flowers.
Or pick them from the garden and pop them in a vase. Or bake yourself some cookies. Do something small and kind for yourself to make your ordinary day a little bit sweeter. (And then maybe do it for someone else?)
11. Breathe. Move. Nourish. Hydrate. Rest.
Last but not least, remember that it’s hard to be kind to yourself—or anyone else—if you’re not kind to your body. As much as you can, listen to what your body needs and graciously provide it. Oh! And naps. I almost forgot naps. They might even deserve their own number on this list. Naps are very kind—they tell your body it’s safe, they give you permission to pause, and they repower your energy and your creativity.
Who’s ready for a nap?
Kindness is contagious, friends. Let’s each bring a little more kindness into the world, starting with ourselves.
Julie Rybarczyk is a freelance writer, fair-weather blogger, and empty-nester mama who’s living alone and liking it . She’s perpetually the chilliest person in Minneapolis—so most of the year you’ll find her under layers of wool, behind steaming cups of tea. Or on the socials at @shortsandlongs.