As we wind down the year to relax, allowing feelings, wants and emotions to flow, unusual ideas surface — the ones that escaped our attention when we were in the task-driven mode. Last year I realized that I needed to be kind to myself — something quite different from being kind to others. Self-care turned out to be a much-needed holiday gift to me.
I posted “Be kind to yourself” on my to-do list, on my table lamp where I could see it. This simple sentence had a more profound impact on me than I could have imagined — even though it was not high up on the list.
Being intense and driven, my natural tendency — over the years — has been to beat myself up unnecessarily in the name of reflecting on and learning from my mistakes. To be kinder to ‘me’, I had to treat myself more gently. This conserved my energy and kept me out of many emotional tailspins.
Unless we let go of our mistakes, we keep replaying them in our heads and drive ourselves crazy.
Even though the positive impact was obvious, still, old habits die hard. I needed constant reminders to not snap back into old patterns. That is why “Be kind to yourself” remains posted on my table lamp.
I’ve also learned that not everything that doesn’t work out is a mistake. Professional bridge players often say, ‘I made the right play, but the cards were stacked against me — there was nothing I could have done differently.’
Similar things happen to us daily. When something goes wrong, we do not always know if it was due to our mistake, or it happened because of other circumstances that we did not even know about.
To protect myself emotionally, I started paying more attention to my feelings. That kept me in better touch with myself, another invaluable outcome. When the mind, body, and emotions are aligned, I think more clearly and act with greater agility and efficiency.
On the other hand, if not fully connected within ourselves, we are clumsy is our mission, and goals become harder to achieve.
Being angry at ourselves unnecessarily saps our energy. Wasted energy is lost productivity. I started increasing my capacity to think and grow, just by being more kind and caring towards me.
To my surprise, I also started giving myself credit for the good things I stand for and do. Without acknowledging my own goodness, how could I have a balanced view of ‘me’? It did wonders for my self-confidence — somethings I try to work on.
Furthermore, I stopped taking myself too seriously which allowed me to have a sense of humor about myself. It translated into becoming a more attentive listener. My interactions became more enjoyable and engaging because instead of being focused on myself, I was fully present for others. It resulted in several five-star ratings from my Lyft drivers — and 25% off on the next ride!
When relaxed, I also found it easier, to be honest about my shortcomings while not undermining my strengths. That brought me greater peace of mind, and my interactions became genuine.
This happened last year when I started asking myself the softer questions:
Am I feeling good? Am I expanding my horizons? Have I improved my interactions? Have I discovered new interests to stay rejuvenated? Have I identified a self-defeating personality trait?
This is much different from measuring ourselves based on yearly goals. Did we get a double-digit raise and/or a promotion? Did we grow our company’s revenues and profits? Did our kid get into to the right school? Did we lose weight?
When we do not meet the goals, we are distressed and upset with ourselves. Very often we have little control over them. This does not put us in a great mood to set new goals on January 1. The self-actualization initiatives are within our reach and attainable — with focus and practice.
Holiday relaxation perhaps flushes the brain and re-energizes the system just like sleep does after a busy work-day. “Scientists believe that .. improved sleep quality (of apes) eventually led to enhanced brain function, which increased intelligence in great apes” including humans.
We could take this time of the year to increases our capacity to think so that new ideas can germinate.
The external growth comes as a result of internal queries. This can happen when we slow down and switch gears — spending time with family, reading, cooking, traveling, hiking or working odd jobs to earn extra money or just indulging in our hobbies — away from our normal tactical mode.
One can grow immensely through internal experiments and self-reflection. And treating oneself kindly through self-care is a good place to start.