Kindness to Self

There is no greater act than putting another before you. This speaks to a selfless giving that seems to be at the base of meaningful love.

Yet having struggled for a lifetime with letting the needs of others define me, I’ve come to understand that without the healthiest form of self-love – without honoring the essence of life that this thing called “self” carries, the way a pod carries a seed – putting another before you can result in damaging self-sacrifice and endless codependence

I have in many ways over many years suppressed my own needs and insights in an effort not to disappoint others, even when no one asked me to. This is not unique to me. Somehow in the course of learning to be good, we have all been asked to wrestle with a false dilemma: being kind to ourselves or being kind to others. In truth, though, being kind to ourselves is a prerequisite to being kind to others. Honoring ourselves is, in fact, the only lasting way to release a truly selfless kindness to others.

It is, I believe, as Mencius, the grandson of Confucius says, that just as water unobstructed will flow downhill, we, given the chance to be what we are, will extend ourselves in kindness. So, the real and lasting practice for each of us is to remove what obstructs us so that we can be who we are, holding nothing back. If we can work towards this kind of authenticity, then the living kindness – the water of compassion – will naturally flow. We do not need discipline to be kind, just an open heart. – William Blake

This quote struck a chord with me as my yoga instructor read it out to the whole class. Lying in shavaasana after an exhausting routine, I could not withhold myself from drawing comparison between the theory of self-love and the theory of absolute altruism that we grow up being taught in India. I feel they are not in conflict.

We expose ourselves to disappointment when we rest our source of happiness in fulfillment of others needs before ours. I also admire the analogy of water because it easily renders itself to an extension of the philosophy. Just like uncontrolled river flowing downhill can take the form of a destructive flood, so can an overindulgent self-love take the form of greed. Yet, kindness to oneself as described above is a “prerequisite”  to kindness to others. I would love to hear what others have to say about this! Peace!

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