Yesterday we explored how kindness is taught to others. Sometimes the most impactful lessons are the ones we teach ourselves, and that is why it is important to invest in self-kindness. Kindness is a behavior…a way of being…that we must practice to maintain. There is no “kindness quota” that once we meet a number of kind acts we can “turn off” being kind for the day. Kindness is always “on” to how we treat others and ourselves, and we should invest in ways to improve our mindfulness in how we can be kind.

Reading is one such way. I cannot say what books will guide you to an epiphany, for an author’s style and ability to connect with a reader will vary from person to person. However, I did find clarity by reading “If the Buddha Dated” by Charlotte Kasl. The reflections of her spiritual guide allowed me to realize acts are sometimes ego-driven, and they can distort how you can become the best version of yourself. “The Power of Kindness,” by Piero Ferrucci was a sage reminder of the values instilled by kind acts and those who perform them. It allowed me to ask better questions to lead me to be more mindful. There are many books you can explore…these are only two that touched me.

Perhaps the most important tool we have for self-kindness is investing in our emotional health. Think about it…when our bodies are hurt, we nurture it back to health, be it with a Band-Aid or a trip to the doctor. But we so often neglect the same behavior when we experience emotional injury, such as loneliness, rejection or failure. Indeed, these daily occurrences are as harmful as a wound, and they are all too often left untreated. And what happens when a wound is not tended to? It can become infected. When we fall into the despair of loneliness we twist our perceptions into believing we are unloved…when our family and friends care for us very much. When we face rejection, it only compounds that loneliness and we build false stories about how we are viewed, tearing ourselves down into something untrue. And, when we face failure, we sometimes put up roadblocks in our minds to prevent us from trying again. By comparing our non-successes to others we become paralyzed to try a different approach to become successful. The only difference is how we see the challenge we face…instead of avoiding rejection, and therefore pain when our frail emotional state is already injured, we brave it.

One powerful technique to reinforce positive behavior when faced with negative emotional urges is a distraction. When you sense your mind replaying a destructive scene, or anticipating a hurtful future…do something else, if only for a few minutes. Phone a friend, read an inspiring chapter from your favorite book, grab a drink you enjoy…only long enough for the urge to pass. Also be sure these distractions are not vices, such as toxic relationships or drugs…you do not want to escape your feelings, but overcome them consciously. You will find this technique, when reinforced over time, will reduce how your mind dwells on negative emotions.

We must become our own best friends when investing in self-kindness. Build self-confidence by reminding yourself of the good you are capable, the positive energy you put into the world, and the acknowledgement of your self worth. No one has the power to take that away from you, especially those who cast destructive forces of loneliness, rejection and failure. By being kind to ourselves, we will gain the clarity to become kinder to others.