This month’s guest blogger is environmental leadership coach, Kath Allen, who shares some tips for ensuring we show ourselves kindness, as a basis for kindness to others.
I am an environmental leadership coach and I believe that self-care is an act of environmental activism. When we take exceptional care of ourselves and attend to our true needs, everyone we care about – and the planet – benefits.
To be of the highest service to our vision and our cause, we need to be compassionately selfish.
Essentially, being kind to ourselves is critical.
I know this flies in the face of the things that many of us have been conditioned to believe. We have been raised to think that we should put others’ needs before our own, that kindness means selflessness, and that being busy in service of others is the very definition of being “worthy”.
But let’s look at this for a moment.
Our best selves
To be of the absolute best service to those causes and individuals we care about, we need to be at our best too.
And to make that happen, we need to put ourselves first. Nobody else is responsible for meeting our needs, we are. And to do that we need to get good at a few key skills. In the words of Brene Brown:
“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
Asking for what we need, saying no and boundaries all turn out to be key components of kindness and compassion for ourselves. This in turn allows us to be kind and compassionate to others without becoming depleted and resentful.
So how do we do this?
Ask for what you need
Firstly, get clear on what you need – is it time alone, time in nature, to work from home twice a week or nutritious meals and plenty of water? Then ask the people who can help you meet your needs using the following structure:
- Explain what you need, what it will provide you with and what it will provide them with when your needs are met.
- Then ask them how you can work together to make it happen.
You will be surprised how happy others are to help you, because they benefit from you being happy and healthy too.
Saying “no” as a default is a great start. So many of us never find time for the things we need because whenever we are asked to do something else, we automatically say “yes”! By practicing saying “no” or even “can I let you know tomorrow?”, we can give ourselves the space to check in with our energy levels and decide if the request is aligned with our goals and priorities. Only then does it get a “yes” and, importantly, only if we have the energy to do it.
Setting boundaries can often seem like an unkindness, but in fact it is absolutely critical to our own wellbeing and our ability to serve others. Often the most important boundaries we can set are with ourselves – for example getting to bed on time, drinking enough water or making sure we stop for lunch.
Without boundaries, what is the example we set for those around us? What boundaries would we like our children to have as they grow into adults? By being a great role model for exceptional self-care, we give others permission to do the same.
Boundaries create spaciousness, freedom and time, which allow our best selves to shine through. Then we can be the parent, friend, colleague, activist we want to be, without resentment and burnout.
There are many types of rest and sleep is only one of them. If you find yourself tired all the time, you might need to look at rest differently.
Meditation, mindfulness, yoga and breathwork are some well known ways to replenish, but there are many more. Perhaps some time to indulge your creativity would give you the lift you need? Or some great conversations with friends who get you? Or deep immersion in nature for a while?
Bear in mind that you might need to set some boundaries with yourself and ask for what you need to be able to get enough of the right kinds of rest.
Speak kindly to yourself
If you find that this all sounds great but the little voice in your head is giving you a hard time about being “selfish” or “not deserving this” for example, that’s ok. That little voice actually has your best interests at heart, believe it or not. It just has a funny way of showing it cares.
If you can allow that voice to be heard, you will find it wants to keep you safe from doing the “wrong” thing or losing everything because of your newfound selfishness! It has a tendency to catastrophise, and that’s because it’s scared of what might happen.
You can reassure it that you have got this and thank it for its concern, but let it know that you are in control.
Benefits for all
Being compassionately selfish doesn’t mean putting ourselves first at the expense of everyone else. It means putting ourselves first for the benefit of everyone else.
- Our children get parents who are present and replenished rather than frazzled and snappy.
- Our colleagues or clients get the version of us that is on-the-ball and efficient, rather than overworked and resentful.
- Our friends get more of our time and get to be inspired by how we love and take exceptional care of ourselves.
- And the planet benefits too. Because when we are happy and replenished, we need less stuff.
When we slow down and meet our true needs, we make better decisions about our lifestyle and we live more sustainably.
Kindness to self is the ultimate act of kindness, and the foundation on which all other kindness can be built to last. How can you be kind to yourself today?
Kath Allen is an environmental leadership coach with a quietly rebellious streak. She works with people who want to calmly and confidently make their own rules for success, fiercely follow their heart and take clear steps towards their vision for the planet and their family, whilst taking exceptional care of themselves.