In part one of my blog on kindness I looked at what kindness is in relation to others. This blog will look at kindness in relation to you. I hope by sharing what has been helpful for me, it is useful for you too.
Practising self-care and kindness to yourself may not be something that you are good at and there can be many reasons for this. Being a Counsellor means I am passionate about mental health and well-being and my interests lie in ways to help you improve your own. In this blog I am hoping to share new ways for you to explore areas of your life that you may not have been aware of, in turn improving your understanding and self-care.
Being kind to others has always felt like second nature to me, but I have come to realise during lockdown that I am not always kind to myself, despite thinking I was.
Adjusting to life in lockdown for the first few weeks was incredibly tough. I view myself as a free spirit and not being able to come and go as I wanted was at odds with this. I felt like my wings had been clipped and I had lost the social butterfly persona I proudly wore. Feelings of irritation and anger surfaced and became part of my daily life. I realise many other people may have experienced similar feelings to this.
I restructured my days with a loose timetable, while making sure a series of tasks kept me busy. On reflection I had replaced one form of busyness with another, that I initially thought I liked. Can you relate to this?
Before lockdown I had a never ending to do list and genuinely believed it was a necessity, with everything on it being a priority. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, then read on.
My initial resistance to what had become my new normal led me to explore my need to keep busy in more detail. I love Transactional Analysis (TA) and use it a lot with clients. The easy to use language makes it appealing and I looked at my need to rush around, be productive and do everything at a fast pace through the TA lens.
So, I bet you are wondering how being kind to yourself is going to help you? Let’s find out by exploring your drivers.
Driver behaviours are ways that we learned to adapt to our environment when we were young and form an aspect of our personality. We adapt to what is approved and disapproved of by the influential grown-ups. By adapting to the driver behaviours, we continue feeling ok about ourselves. We all exhibit these driver behaviours and tend to lean towards one or two of them. As you will have noticed, my driver in this instance is hurry up. Do you recognise this one too?
Hurry Up – This driver instructs you to be always on the go, rushing around, being productive and not taking time out to relax. The childhood message would be being rushed and told not to take too long over anything, as well as not wasting time.
Be Perfect – This driver instructs attention to detail in everything you do, planning everything with precision and repeatedly revisiting until something is fine tuned. You may also have imposter syndrome (hyperlink). The childhood message would be not to take risks and not to make mistakes.
Be Strong – This driver instructs you to not show any emotion, ride the storm and get on with things by being tough. It is commonly seen in men, but also present in women. The childhood message would concentrate on strength and courage and not to give in or be weak.
Try Hard – This driver instructs you to be persistent and determined, but you are often left dissatisfied. The childhood message would be persistence and patience, while also being taught never to be satisfied and to keep going.
Please Others – This driver instructs you to put other people’s needs before your own, while keeping everyone happy. You may have many friends and be renowned for being extremely kind and considerate. The childhood message would include values like kindness and compassion, while also learning you should always say yes to things.
The hurry up driver has kept me in a state of busyness for most of my life. Although it has many positives in terms of making you productive and organised, the negative aspect of this driver is not allowing yourself to have much free time to relax, guilt-free. It is fair to say that lockdown considerably challenged this driver and acted as the catalyst that was required.
Has this nudged you into wanting to explore your personal drivers?
Over the next few weeks, I gave myself permission to not write a list or stick to a schedule other than seeing clients. I allowed myself to relax and slow down and stopped the thoughts of having to achieve so much in my day to be worthwhile. Very quickly I found myself completing a task if I wanted to, but not because I needed to. If I did not feel like doing it, then I allowed myself to delay whatever task it was.
After this I started to really relax and more importantly, I began being kind to myself in terms of my expectations. It really was ok to sit and relax if that is what I needed in the moment. That was a revelation for me and challenging any of your identified drivers has the potential to impact you too.
In the weeks that followed I found that being kind to myself freed me up from the driver behaviour that had ruled with an iron rod. Allowing myself to decide whether I completed something or not actually removed the guilt from it. This resulted in feeling more relaxed, my feelings of irritation and anger disappeared, and I was also more productive than I had been with a to-do-list!
Lockdown allowed me to notice the consequences of my hurry up driver. Driver behaviour usually happens on auto pilot at an unconscious level, so developing a mindful approach can help you to challenge it. My new narrative was telling me ‘it’s ok, you have lots of time’. I also incorporated more time between clients so the need to rush was removed. This is still a new journey for me where this driver will have to be continually challenged. An exciting prospect is that when we go against driver behaviour, we set up new neural pathways in our brain. That means that the more we practise, the easier it will become!
Curiosity pays off
This newfound kindness to myself has been revolutionary and has brought about a calmness with it. The biggest lesson is the way I speak to myself. I can say with conviction that I am NOT lazy because I choose not to be permanently busy. By examining your drivers in more detail, I wonder what revelations you might have?
I am excited by this new self-awareness and kindness. The next obstacle will be to continue to challenge this driver when life returns to a ‘new normal’, with its inevitable increased busyness.
To see how you can identify and challenge your own dominant drivers, you can complete the questionnaire here and start your journey to increased kindness to yourself!
Until next time.