Learning to Be Kind

My phone client said that I talk about being kind to oneself, but she was finding it very difficult to do that. She said she's been a caretaker her whole life. She's taken care of other people, but not herself. She's been doing that since she's been three years old.

I said it's hard for a kid who is three years old to have to be in the position of being a caretaker. At that age, it gets cemented into your functioning so you can't even think intellectually, "I shouldn't be doing this." So you can look at your situation and say, "Yes, it's hard for me to be kind to myself. I get it. It's not going to be like I flip a switch and suddenly I'm kind to myself." It's a slow change, but it's great that you even recognize what's happening.

My client said, "I have this thing where I push myself past my limits. I can feel it happening. I get exhausted but I tell myself I have to keep going. When I was a kid, my Mom told me that I was lazy. She said I have to push through things and finish them. I keep feeling like I'm lazy and I'm never good enough."

I said that it was a cruel thing for a parent to say to a kid. Often times parents don't see kids as kids, they seem them as adults. They don't understand a child's functioning, and that can hurt a kid. It can even hurt an adult when you chastise a person for their behavior or their nature.

I told my client that the next time she's in the midst of doing something, and she's getting tired, and she's saying to herself 'come on, keep going, don't be lazy,' that's a red flag to realize 'I'm tired, I'm not lazy. I need some rest. And I will stop now and take care of myself.'" That's a kind thing. That's a way to begin to cherish yourself.

Later that night I got an email from my client. She said (used with her permission):

There's a lot to this transformation, but the time we talked and worked today really got my head in a good place with it. I have a candle lit on my counter right now, along with a small blue glass heart. It strikes me that now I get to wonder what it will be like to live as a person who is cherished ... and enact that. What a gift you have! Words hardly suffice. Thank you for your compassion and deep understanding.