24 Oct Self Kindness & Habits
Self kindness when it comes to behaviour change.
There is so much out there on self care practices and the importance of self love, and all of this is completely valid and essential. But I think there is one area that can tend to be left out cause it’s a little less obvious, and it’s arguably the most crucial component of them all. And this is self kindness when observing your own thoughts.
Let’s rewind a little here. When you want to change behaviours or habits that you have, as most of us do in one area of our lives or another, what you really want to change is your THOUGHTS. Because actions are simply choices we make in response to emotions and feelings that arise from a thought we’ve had. But that’s a whole other post in itself.
What I simply want to highlight here is that when we want to change our behaviour, one of the first steps is that we become observers of our own thoughts, and the resulting actions if there are any. Maybe we analyse a situation after it has happened and break down the series of events that led to it. Maybe we sit and have frustrated mental debates with ourselves about why we did something, why we feel a certain way or why we can’t stop thinking a certain thing. This is because before you can actively change a behaviour you obviously need to be A) aware it is even happening and B) have a desire to change it.
So once we have this awareness usually the next step is to focus not so much on the behaviour but the thoughts that led up to it. Like I said, this belongs in another post. But this is where the self kindness bit becomes absolutely key. We tend to be very self critical of our thought patterns that we don’t like, and even if we are observing them as objectively as we can, we may be doing so with a hint of criticism.
“Flip, why do I always feel that way after speaking to Mary, I need to snap out of it.”, “I cannot believe I am obsessing over X, Y, Z again, I will never be able to break this pattern.” or “I can literally see my thoughts going down their usual path again and once again I am too weak to stop it”.
I almost visualise it like we are perched up on a ledge in a room watching our brain and thoughts swim around below. Having this perspective can be useful for bringing about the desired behaviour change as it can create distance between the thought and you, and help you realise that no matter emotion arises in you from a thought, and the feeling of discomfort that that my bring, you always have a choice before you act. BUT it is also very easy to be overly self critical from this position.
And so that is the point of this entire lil blog post! Observe your thoughts and feelings with COMPASSION and KINDNESS. It is fab to be self aware and introspective, and spend time sitting through discomfort in order to realise that you don’t have to act on every impulse you have. But realise you aren’t perfect. Sometimes your actions won’t be what you want. Sometimes thoughts will frustrate you. Do not berate yourself. The more you foster gentle self talk, the more you set yourself up for success next time. Encourage yourself, be understanding and tolerant, and this will build up your confidence that you CAN change your habits, you can lead a happier, more productive life, and you aren’t simply a victim of circumstance. Getting down on yourself actually decreases your likelihood of future success. So don’t do it! If you’re in doubt, think, would I say this to the child version of myself? Or would I take her hand and tell her to not be so hard on herself?
Be a thought observer, but observe with love.