By Kim O’Neill, CEO, On the Line.
This month we celebrated World Kindness Day, first introduced in 1998 at the World Kindness Movement conference in Tokyo. Kindness is a core component of what On the Line does every day to help people navigate life’s ups and downs, but to understand the true power of such a seemingly simple concept, it’s important that we broaden our understanding of what kindness means.
The Cambridge dictionary defines kindness as ‘the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people, or an act showing this quality’. Whilst this is a helpful description, it also reflects a limitation in our understanding of the concept – that kindness is something we only direct towards others.
For me, true kindness does include the idea of being helpful and caring towards others, but perhaps most importantly, it means kindness towards ourselves.
The challenge of kindness
Many of us find it easier to demonstrate empathy and compassion for others than to apply these ideas to ourselves. In part this stems from the societal perception that these qualities are something we direct outwards, but it’s also because in western society, helping ourselves is a neglected skill. The idea that we can be kind to ourselves and accept and see the challenges of life as part of the human experience is something I find sadly lacking in our national conversation. Acceptance of ourselves and recognising the greatness that we all have is an invaluable skill in fostering greater empathy for humankind and spreading kindness.
Taking the time to work on ourselves is a cornerstone of becoming better at helping others. A significant body of research shows that our ability to help others and practise kindness is greatly enhanced when we are feeling balanced and well. If we don’t take enough care of ourselves, we won’t be in the place to help our loved ones either.
At the most basic level, being kind to yourself is a basic tenant of a healthy and happy life. How you treat and talk to yourself becomes the foundation from which you approach your other relationships.
Ways to practise kindness for yourself
How can we practise kindness to ourselves?
There are many ways you can begin – the following articles provide many hints to start your journey of self-compassion and kindness:
In our ongoing journey to build a better society, kindness, empathy and compassion must be at the forefront of our approach to helping lift others up. Our ability to truly integrate these values into our efforts to help people feel better must start with ourselves, for it is only when we discover the ability to be compassionate and kind to ourselves that we can truly and selflessly provide effective support to others.