Our first world culture imprisons children with conditioned rules and beliefs, the vast proportion of which are just not true. We become slaves to these rules and live outside of our authentic selves, outside of freedom to choose and act in our unique and special ways.
One of the deepest forms of conditioning lies in the ways in which we are trained to be kind to others. And hence on this “World Kindness Day” I want to take a slightly different angle on the issue.
For most people World Kindness Day is about how to be more kind and generous and giving to others, probably particularly in relation to those who are not as fortunate as you might be. Of course this is wonderful and has the potential to make the world a better place.
I think there is another way to activate kindness that can make the world a much better place too!
Be Kind to Others!
Most of the conditioning that we grow up with tells us: “Be kind to your sister or brother, apologise, be respectful, say thank you, say I’m sorry, be more giving, be less selfish, be a better contributor to society, leave a legacy…” All of these injunctions are telling us to activate love and kindness and express it outwards, but what about what’s happening internally.
My work is entitled Love yourself for no reason because for most people the only way that they can begin to appreciate themselves is through getting approval from others and being successful. This is a desperately inadequate form of love.
I call it getting love on the outside. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a very unreliable source, because life is filled with rejection and success is usually not particularly long-lived. Even if you consider yourself a successful person there are many failures along this immensely winding road.
So in honour of World Kindness Day, I would like to offer you the possibility of learning to give kindness toward yourself and then ultimately to really love yourself. I would also like to show you how doing this, is ultimately an immense gift to the world.
A really good place to start is to notice how much of the time you are unkind to yourself, how much of the time you judge yourself.
The more I do this Self-Esteem work the more deeply I discover the ways in which we reject ourselves. The extent to which we do it is really overwhelming.
I’m sitting in a one-on-one session with a client. He stops in midsentence and in a very self-effacing, tentative and apologetic way says to me: “I’m…sorry…can I…ah…use the toilet please?”
This is a young man who is really addicted to harmony. He’s very sensitive and he wishes the world was a kinder more peaceful and loving place and he tries to act kindly and treat people with gentleness and respect.
Beautiful yes? Well only partly.
Wanting the world to be a better place, filled with more love and peace, is of course very noble, but notice what happens when he is wanting peace externally so badly, when he is wanting the world to be more loving externally.
Just notice the way in which he self-wrongeously (self-wrongeous is the opposite of self-righteous. Thank you to Dr. John Demartini for the word) makes this request and notice how it reflects a deep sense of inferiority in him.
Now here’s the kicker.
Being Too Kind is Self-Rejection.
When he’s inappropriately apologizing, he’s judging himself for having basic biological needs and for perhaps inconveniencing me. He is brutalising himself. And when I ask him how much of the time he judges himself in this way, he says to me, with great emphasis: “Often!”
This really kind and well intentioned young man, is endlessly rejecting himself. His needs, his wants, his ‘so-called’ negative traits, his very being.
And so being too kind to others is going to war with ourselves.
Isn’t it ironic that the overdetermined desire for external peace leads to ongoing to war with oneself?
It would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic.
In working with my clients I have discovered a really fascinating obstacle to being able to show kindness and love towards oneself. It’s the fear of looking arrogant. When we have this fear we are making a really dangerous assumption that there are only two options on this continuum, from self-love to self-rejection. We confuse self-love with arrogance. We miss the fact that on the one end of the spectrum is self-rejection and on the other end of the spectrum is self-inflation. In the middle is love.
A Binary Error.
It’s this middle position that most people miss, they just don’t see it! I call it a binary error, an ‘all or nothing’ perspective. Our culture is riddled with this. I have worked with thousands of clients who jump into this binary error the instant I challenge their perceptions.
I’d love to share with you a story which illustrates beautifully why we get confused in this way. I’m working with a client a young man who has a lot of performance anxiety and he says that the problem is if he lets go of his anxiety, he will become a couch potato. I say to him, can you picture your little girl who is six years old and she comes home from school with a report that says she has failed.
And you say to her: “Well maybe you didn’t do your homework and that’s why you failed.” Now she shuts down and get anxious and feels bad about herself and you have sown the seeds of self-rejection which then proceeds to grow into a monster which inhabits her psyche for the rest of her life.
And my client says to me: “The problem is, how will she ever learn to pass if I don’t give her some form of negative feedback to help her?” Again, he only sees two options – the binary error has reared its head. He thinks it’s keep quiet vs be negative.
So here is what I suggest to him.
“You draw your daughter closer to you and you hold her in your arms and you love her in her pain. You say to her ‘Can you feel my love for you going inside your body and can you feel my love for you melting away all of the pain inside you?’
Little children are very good at doing this. “When all of the pain has been dissolved, you can then say to her: ‘Now do you want to talk about how you can get better marks for next time?’
This is where the gentle and slow teaching and guidance can begins.
This won’t work if your kid is not open to your love. Wait for their anger or ‘distancing energy’ to subside, then love them and then teach them the ‘melting’ process.
Once they have learned how to do this, teach them to do it on their own. So they are sitting on the couch opposite you and they are sad. Say: “Sweetie, can you feel me loving you sitting over there on the couch and can you feel the love melting away your sadness?” If they can’t then go over and love them and then see if they can feel the love melting the sadness away while there on their own.
Then start talking about them doing it when they’re at school and you not there.
Very few parents know how to do this or have even thought about doing this. But it is a beautiful and magnificent thing to do. Do the love first and then the gentle and slow acquisition of learnings come later.
Most parents are so filled with anxiety and the need to control the future of their children that they can’t do the love first and rush to fix and teach before the pain has been healed and if the pain hasn’t yet been healed the teaching and the learning hardly happens at all and even if it does, it happens within the context of self-rejection and fear.
The Solution – Step #1
I recommend that you begin to do this with yourself to see if you can begin to love yourself first, when you’re in pain and then to look at how you can grow and learn from the pain. Melt away the pain with love inside you. It won’t be nearly as easy doing this with yourself as it is with kids because we adults are so filled with ideas and mental arguments that get in the way of this simple process.
Everywhere I go, in my work, socially, watching interviews with sportspeople and business people who have struggled with adversity, they say: “No, I learned a lot from this…” I often ask them what they have learned and they can’t tell me! They’re just trotting out a conditioned, learned response.
We have become conditioned robots, living the injunctions of our parents and teachers and media!
Learn to love yourself first and then get the learnings.
The next thing you can do is notice how much of the time you are apologising for your needs, apologising for asking for what you want, apologising for being difficult and demanding and selfish and notice how judgemental you are being of yourself.
Notice how you are going to war with yourself.
Can you begin to realise that it’s impossible to live a life, a fulfilled life where you are not expressing these character traits.
Most people think it’s bad to be selfish.
It’s impossible not to be selfish!
At a very basic level we have time money and spiritual or psychological energy to give away to others. Just imagine a life where you gave away all of these three things and never took back what you wanted in these three areas. You would have no time, no money and you’d be empty psychologically and spiritually.
Clearly selfishness is necessary in order to function in the world. Without selfishness the world would take advantage of you and drain you until you were empty.
It’s the same for all of the other character traits as well. Just check it out. No matter how nice you are, somebody at some point is going to consider you to be demanding. Indeed the energetic signature of being too nice can indeed be very irritating and feel like a demanding energy for the people receiving it!
Which is why loving yourself is such a gift to the world. It is such an expanded and joyous and infectious energy. It’s not paranoid and contracted and anxious and doubtful.
That’s a lot of fun to be around and in addition it’s a giving energy and that’s where the kindness to others now comes in!
The next thing is to ask yourself who taught you to judge yourself this way. Can you begin to see that whoever taught you this was lying to you when they said you have to be so apologetic and judgemental of yourself? To start to see the lie is to begin to exit into freedom. See if you can stop apologising for your needs and stop judging your so-called negative character traits. This step can take a lot of work but this work is what is meant by you beginning to be kind toward yourself and then to go beyond kindness toward love.
In my Love yourself for no reason book I describe multiple strategies to assist people in discovering how to love themselves more and more deeply.
It is a journey of joy and delight.
In Love & Power,