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Can You Be a “Kinder, Gentler Person” – to Yourself
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Can You Be a “Kinder, Gentler Person” – to Yourself

By Kelley McCabe


Yesterday I taught a mindful eating class. We talked about “facts” and “stories about the facts”. One student I’ll call Mary talked about the fact of having eaten a lot of scones and biscuits in the previous week. Mary talked about her mother’s recent, sudden and serious illness - another fact. Then she began her story: how her mother’s illness gave Mary another excuse, in a long series of excuses, that allowed her to fall off the wagon; that Mary lacked self-discipline and thought of herself as hateful.


We talked about how Mary would interpret these facts if they were about me. If my mother had been seriously ill and I had coped with her illness in the same way Mary had: by eating too much when I wasn’t hungry. What would Mary say about me? In that case Mary said she would consider what I had eaten as soul food.


Why soul food when I’m eating it, but in the same situation, Mary’s scones made her feel hateful about herself?


Can it be true that my behavior would be acceptable while, under the very same circumstances, Mary’s behavior would not? Is it possible, even in our weaker moments, to cut ourselves a break? Could we begin to treat ourselves with the same kindness we would so willingly extend to others? Here are a few steps in practicing kindness toward yourself:


- Pay attention to what you are saying. It may be something you express out loud or perhaps that internal nagging voice.


- Question the truth of what you are saying. Am I really worthless? Am I actually lazy? Does eating scones make me hateful?


- Are these things you would say to a friend? Is this something you would say to your child? If not, you are probably being unkind.


- Practice taking another point of view. Could it be that eating scones for a few days when your mother is so critically ill is OK? Is it possible to take alternative actions like asking a close friend or partner to go for a walk or making a wiser food choice?


- Ask yourself, “Am I better or worse off telling myself I am hateful, worthless, or lazy? Does acting unkindly toward myself make my mother less ill? When I am unkind to myself is it more or less likely that I will eat more scones?” Then think of things you could say or do that would improve the situation.


They say charity begins at home… might the same be true of kindness?