When I mused about planning a year-long birthday project focused on kindness in my previous post, fellow blogger Crystal Byers, who writes the inspiring blog Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope, suggested that I could always start with self-kindness. Thanks, Crystal, that is precisely what I’ll do.
Self-kindness is a concept that many of us never think about. I’m sure some of us have never even heard the phrase (I raise my hand at this point). But there’s nothing more important. Having thought about this a little since Crystal planted that suggestion in my mind, it strikes me that there should be two parts to the Golden Rule. Along with ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, we should also admonish ourselves to ‘Do unto yourself as you would do unto others’. If you’re not kind to yourself, you will beat yourself up or wear yourself out and not be able to be the caring, productive, kind – and healthy – person you want to be.
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed with this topic, but that changed when I came across an insightful article by Harvey Schachter in this morning’s Globe and Mail. Mr. Schachter writes a column that is intended for management folks, but I often find his observations well worth considering for all aspects of our lives. This morning’s article, about the ‘myth’ of laziness, has a lot to tell us about self-kindness:
Social psychologist Devon Price says laziness does not exist – except as a deceptive notion in our mind, which hurts us and others.
It leads us to work unreasonably hard, even to burn out, fuelled by an aversion to being considered lazy inculcated in our youth by parents, teachers, sports coaches and youth groups. It also leads us to dismiss people struggling with burdens beyond their capacities, viewing them as lazy and thus shiftless folk deserving of their own fate, rather than understanding and helping them.
“The laziness we’ve all been taught to fear does not exist. There is no morally corrupt, slothful force inside us, driving us to be unproductive for no reason. It’s not evil to have limitations and to need breaks. Feeling tired or unmotivated is not a threat to our self-worth,” the professor at Loyola University of Chicago’s school of continuing and professional studies writes in Laziness Does Not Exist.
Indeed, the feelings that we write off as laziness are a core part of how humanity stays alive and thrives in the long term. He calls it “the laziness lie.”
… [Overcoming] that requires budgeting time for relaxation and recovery each day, even if it feels like laziness. You need to fight back against the laziness lie, a deep-seated, culturally held belief system which manifests itself in these powerful but destructive feelings:
- Deep down, I’m lazy and worthless.
- I must work increasingly hard, all the time, to overcome my internal laziness.
- My worth is earned through my productivity.
- Work is the centre of life.
- Anyone who isn’t accomplished and driven is immoral.
… Don’t be afraid to be lazy – to ensure rest and relaxation, particularly when overwhelmed and sensing burnout could be on the horizon. “It seems to me that being upfront about your limits and needs is a sign of strength, not weakness,” he says. Cutting back on obligations may seem to hurt or disappoint colleagues and friends. But in the long-term, he argues, it can free them to do the same, healing and growing.
So in the year ahead, be willing to be lazy.
It seems to me that this is one way of being kind to yourself: Be willing to be lazy. Give it a try. Blame it on me!