So much suffering is caused by not taking care of ourselves because we do not know how to be kind to ourselves.
Most of our lives it is drummed into us that we should think of others first and that to think of oneself is selfish – which we must never be.
However, unless we take care of ourselves we will sooner or later pay the price in our relationships, our health, our happiness and our sense of wellbeing.
So the first step of taking care of ourselves is to learn to be kind to ourselves.
When I first came across this idea of ”being kind to myself” I felt a deep visceral rejection of it. It seemed frankly stupid to me. To be kind to myself felt like a deep sign of weakness. It would surely make me weak. Weakness was something that could not be tolerated. Weakness also meant being vulnerable – something I had struggled my whole life to avoid (which ironically made me more vulnerable).
It took me some time to realise that I couldn’t be kind to myself because I felt that I didn’t deserve it.
I felt that if I didn’t keep criticising, driving, berating myself then all would collapse; I would stop doing all the things I “should” do and instead I would lose myself in sex and drugs (I include alcohol in this). At that time I used sex and drugs (having a good time) as a kind of distraction – an anaesthetic from suffering. I believed at that time that passing weekends in a hedonistic haze of drugs and sex was taking care of myself. I had not yet learned that having a “good time” was not the same as being happy.
If berating ourselves was the answer to our problems then most of us would be problem free. How many times have you thought: “I am going sit and berate, criticize myself for half an hour because I know that I will feel so much better afterwards”? If life were like that then we would all participate in morning ”beration” instead of morning meditation.
Here is an interesting fact: you could travel the whole universe and you will not find a being that deserves your love and kindness more than you.
There are better sources of motivation than crushing harshness, merciless perfectionism and unforgiving criticism.
So be pragmatic. If beating yourself up, perfectionism, harshness isn’t working then try something else that does work.
As a good first step in this process I recommend Kristin Neffs’ book “Be kind to yourself” and a retreat with us in Cantabria