In a world where you can be anything - be kind, to yourself!
This week we celebrated Anti-Bullying week and the theme of ‘Reach Out’, which came about following consultation with teachers and pupils by the Anti-Bullying Alliance which coordinates Anti-Bullying Week every year in England and Wales. Teachers and children wanted a theme that empowered them to do something positive to counter the harm and hurt that bullying causes. Anti-Bullying Week reminds everyone whether it’s in school, at home, in the community or online, let’s reach out and show each other the support we need.
One of the key activities launched during our Anti-Bullying Assembly was the writing of our ‘Kindness Pledges’. Each form group will be making a commitment to uphold the values and promises they have made to each other and the wider school community, to place importance on kindness and to continue to celebrate a community that is kind and inclusive.
I sat listening to the assembly and started thinking about the power of kindness. Acts of kindness have the potential to make the world a happier place. We can start by showing kindness in our words and our actions. It is evident that the benefits of helping others can last long after the act itself, for those who offer kindness, and those who benefit. This can reduce our own stress and improve our own mood, self-esteem, and happiness. This extrinsic benefit of kindness is wonderful.
However, so often we are busy investing time in making sure other people are happy through our kindness that we forget to be kind to ourselves. When we are kind to other people, we pay them attention, we offer warmth, affection, and generosity, without judging if it is deserved. Kindness isn’t a reward for good behaviour, or because we want something. We are considerate. We think of actions that the other person will appreciate, and we give without expecting anything back. We are open to celebrating their success without feeling that it takes something away from us.
It can be easy to know when you aren't being kind to yourself, when you are beating yourself up, when you compare yourself to others, set impossibly high standards for yourself, talk to yourself harshly and judge yourself critically. It is likely that you are good at some aspects of self-kindness, and not so good at others. So, you might be good at noticing when you need to go to bed early and actually do this, or treat yourself to a comforting bath, but still be stuck on making comparisons, getting wound up by a friend cycling up the hill way faster than you, or be highly self-critical.
Therefore, it is just as important to be kind to ourselves. Prioritise some 'me' time, so you can relax and think about how you’re feeling and how your day or week has been so far. Tune out of your social media channels for a day, or even a week. Treat yourself to something. It doesn't have to be a big thing. Remember, good things come in small packages. Do something you enjoy, like listening to a favourite song or dancing in your kitchen. Spend some time with nature. It's great for our mental health.
When we are kind to ourselves it is easier to be truly kind to others, and to accept others’ kindness and love. Put simply though, it’s not much fun living with someone who is mean to you – and that’s what many of us do to ourselves. Being kind to ourselves, and to others, is a recipe for happiness.
As the assembly ended and I was standing at the front as a wave of girls walked past and excitedly made their way off to their first lesson, I was approached by a student who ‘reached out’ and asked if I was ok as she gently touched her cheek. She had seen a graze on my face after an accident I had had the week before. I smiled and said I was. She smiled back and said, ‘I’m pleased’. As she walked away, I was filled with pride that I get to work in a school, surrounded by young people who are kind, considerate and caring and who really do want to make a difference.