Last August, a long chain of pay it forward occurred in the Starbuck’s drive through in St. Petersburg, Florida. The chain began at 7 am and lasted 11 hours. A total of 378 people purchased coffee for the next person in the drive through line. (Click here for story)
Has someone in front of you in line ever bought your morning java or something else?
It has been suggested that random acts of kindness bring gratification, compassion for others and a sense of community.
While paying it forward is a noble and very likely a healthy practice, why is it so easy to do something kind for a total stranger while struggling to be kind to ourselves?
Daniel Siegel, a psychiatrist and expert on the neurobiology of attachment created something he calls “mindsight” (Mindsight Institute). Mindsight is defined as the ability to tune into one’s own mind in order to be able to tune into the minds of others.
Sometimes we get so caught up in giving to others whether, that is our partner, our children, our extended family, our friends and even total strangers, that we neglect to give ourselves the very kindness that we are so quick to give away.
Giving to others while ignoring what we need can lead to extreme burn out, fatigue and bitterness. After all, we are also human with the same need for kindness as everyone else. If we ignore that, the kindness we give to others won’t come from a genuine place or will be tinged with resentment.
Perhaps it is time to tune in, reconnect and re-secure your attachment to yourself through kindness. Consider the following.
1. Release yourself from that pesky sense of obligation.
Challenge yourself to accept someone else’s kindness without obligation to pay it forward. It is okay to accept someone else’s kindness without always returning the favor. Uncertainty about receiving kindness from others can be calmed by slowing down and taking a deep breath.
A simple mantra might also help to calm any sense of obligation. “It is okay”, “keep breathing” or “accept this gift” can serve as gentle reminders.
Give yourself permission to be the 379th car in the coffee drive through!
2. Be gentle with yourself if you make mistakes
We are often very quick to forgive the foibles of others. What about forgiveness of our own mistakes?
The best practice is to keep mistakes as small as possible, apologize for any wrong doing, correct if able, learn, and move to a place of forgiving oneself.
Remaining in a perpetual state of beating oneself up over a mistake made is not a positive way to practice self-kindness.
Connect with yourself as a human being, capable of learning from mistakes by moving through them with compassion for your imperfections.
3. Take care of yourself in a way that feels authentic to you.
Self-care does not equal selfish! In fact, the two are polar opposites. To care for oneself fuels the ability to care for others, so self-care is nothing short of a loving act.
Many people do not fully grasp what self-care means. Instead, they shame themselves with sayings such as, “I should go to the gym because I need to get in better shape”, or “I should read this book about parenting”, or “I should fold this load of clothes”. There is no room for “should” in self-care.
Self-care is not based on shame, guilt or comparison to others. It is based upon doing something that genuinely takes care of oneself. The only requirements are honesty and the suspension of judgment about what self-care “should” be.
Through a lens of kindness, think about what you need to secure a strong attachment to yourself. How can you tune into yourself, acknowledge and honor your need for kindness? How can you direct some of the kindness you give others inward to yourself?
I invite you to reflect about what feeds your soul, makes you joyful or gives you energy when thinking about self-care. It is only limited by the bounds of your imagination, and only you have the power to make it happen.