Humans. Humanity. Mankind.
Yup. That’s you. That’s me. That’s all the people we hear about on the news every day, near and far. We are mankind.
But it’s an interesting word to use, don’t you think? The very word suggests that we are kind, and yet the news is filled with stories of people being anything but nice to each other. We throw stones at those who are “different” than we are. We kill. We torture. We belittle. All the while neglecting to see that we are all the same species. We are thinking, feeling creatures who just want to be understood, loved, seen and heard. But some of us take a questionable, albeit unkind, path in order to get it.
So are we really deserving of such a word as mankind with which to describe ourselves?
I cannot hope to solve all the problems of the world with one blog post, let alone 50. And I wouldn’t dare to try (though I really, really want to).
But perhaps it’s not as dooms days at is all sounds. As Gandhi once said, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the entire ocean does not become dirty.”
In an effort to make some kind of positive mark on the world, I know one way that I can – and you can too – begin to heal the unkindness that plagues it:
Yes, by being kind to others, sure. That goes without saying.
But first, we have to be kind to ourselves.
How many times have you berated yourself for saying or doing something stupid in front of people whose opinions you care about (and even people whose you don’t)?
How many times have you called yourself a nasty name?
How many times have you picked up the phone and called your ex when you swore you wouldn’t, and got down on yourself afterward for being such a “fool?”
I have drunk dialed exes and regretted every single occasion.
I once ate 24 (yes, 24) peanut butter cups in a single sitting. I couldn’t stop myself. I swore my stomach would explode. It was arguably the best food baby I’ve ever sported (and the closest I ever came to having to have my stomach pumped).
I have fallen on my face – quite literally – too many times to count in public places (I once walked around an entire evening hostessing shift with the zipper of my skirt unzipped. And I was wearing a thong. Proud moment. On another particularly brilliant occasion, I was in so much of a rush that when I turned away from the table I was serving, I smoked my face off a heating lamp during a lunch rush with a patio filled with 30 tables. It was so bad that I blacked out for a few seconds. When I came to – somehow still standing – the heat lamp was still shaking, and all 100+ faces were staring at me in disbelief. With a broken ear and a bruised ego, I had to continue my shift and sheepishly say, “Yes” when every single person asked me if I was ok, all the while trying to hold themselves back from laughing out loud in my face).
On all of those occasions, I got down on myself. I was anything but kind to myself for having done whatever it was I had done.
Besides being a complete klutz and sugar addict, I have also allowed others to make me feel small (usually in the name of trying to be and feel cool).
Basically, I have a history of being really unkind to and unforgiving of myself.
How many times have you chosen to laugh at yourself during these less than stellar moments over belittling and punishing yourself for being “such an idiot?”
How often do you give yourself a break? A hall pass? A pat on the back for a job well done?
How many times have you done it for others?
If you’re a woman (sorry, dudes, this is just statistically true), then you probably almost always berate yourself and almost never give yourself a break, but you don’t think twice about doing it for others.
Kindness has been on my mind lately. And no, not just because I’m worried about teaching my child how to be kind, and wondering what I will do the first time someone is unkind to her (I’m thinking punching them in the face won’t be the kind – or wise – way to react, though it won’t stop me from thinking about it).
It’s because it keeps coming up.
A friend of mine on Facebook the other day posted:
“In yoga the other day, we were asked to set an intention. Mine was: “I love my body and I will be happy with what I can do during this practice.” It feels like I’ve asked myself to climb Mt. Everest. Why is it so hard to love and be kind to ourselves?”
How many times have you found yourself asking that very same question?
While driving to the Farmer’s Market Sunday morning, I was listening to a segment on the radio about a hospital that is participating in the Great Kindness Challenge, an organization challenging people to perform as many acts of kindness as they can in one school week. Why would a hospital participate? Besides it being absolutely awesome, it’s because statistically, patients who are surrounded by love and kindness get better faster than those who are not. In that sense, kindness is actually as potent as medicine!
If kindness is medicine, and it can heal, it stands to reason that it can also heal the world.
And for many of us, being kind to others is already our modus operandi. But for those same people – and many others – we haven’t quite honed the skill of being kind to ourselves.
We get down on ourselves for not being enough, doing enough, knowing enough. We question our ability to parent. We get mad at ourselves for not getting everything done we hoped to get done in a day, week, or month. We allow ourselves to hate our bodies – or at least parts of them – that make us feel less than perfect.
Well I’ve got news for you: none of that stuff is going to go away until you take a stand. You’re never going to have enough time in a day, enough brain capacity to learn what you want to learn, and if you’re anything like me, you will continue to do stupid things. In fact, just last Saturday I was walking up the stairs carrying scissors. Thankfully I had the blade down because I missed a step in my excitement to get up to the nursery to show Ted what needed to be done. I fell, missing my stomach (phew) but bonking my head in the forehead with the butt of the scissors (ow) and bruising both my forearms and knees (also ow) in an effort to keep my stomach safe (I really need to stop falling during this pregnancy).
No sooner than the red welt on my forehead had gone away was I rushing out of the house a few days later. Miraculously, I remembered all of my things. I got settled into the car, turned it on, and put it in reverse. Something felt weird. My feet. They felt weird.
I looked down at them. Rather than wearing the white converse kicks I had originally planned to wear with my outfit, I was – instead – wearing my husbands size 11 ugg slippers. Oops. Now, I’m a fan of uggs, and I probably could have pulled them off as shoes. But there was one minor detail getting in the way of that plan: I’m a size 7 ½. So I looked pretty silly.
Any normal Lauren reaction in either of these situations would have been cruel: You idiot. What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you paying attention?
But instead, I was kind to myself. I laughed, brushed it off, went back into the house and put on the appropriate shoes, and proceeded on with my day.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Well, first, so that you can laugh at my expense. Because I do silly things. And it’s funny. And humor is the spice of life. So hopefully it made you smile, either at or with me.
But second, to hopefully make you see that we’re always going to do things that make us shake our heads. We’re never going to escape them. It’s always going to be hard to feel pretty when you’re standing next to a super model. It’s always going to feel hard when you miss your kid’s soccer game. It’s always going to feel hard when you get constructive feedback from a friend, colleague, boss or spouse.
But if we choose to get down on ourselves instead of choosing to lift ourselves up, we are doing ourselves – and the world – a great disservice. Let’s earn the name mankind, not just by being kind to others, but perhaps most important of all, by being kind to ourselves.
Need a little help getting started?
Here are 5 things you can do today:
1. Leave yourself loving post-it notes around the house.
Need some helpful hints? Try these:
- You are freakin’ awesome!
- You are lovable.
- You are the apple of my eye.
- You got this.
- I love you because you never stop trying.
- I love you because you show up.
- Don’t forget to show up for yourself today.
- Don’t forget how wonderful you are!
- You are beautiful.
2. Leave work early sometime this week and get yourself a massage.
If you don’t like massages, pick something else that would make you feel good. Acupuncture? A chiropractic appointment? A trip to the shopping mall?
3. Vow not to say anything mean about yourself for one whole week.
Yes, week. Take it one day a time. If you accidentally say something mean about yourself, forgive yourself, correct yourself (replace the mean sentence with a nice one), apologize to yourself, and move on.
4. Start a “this is why I’m awesome” list.
Add to it as many times a day as you want to.
5. Before you go to bed tonight, acknowledge yourself for one good thing you did today for yourself.
It could be as simple as, “I smiled at the stranger on the street when I really didn’t want to,” to, “I kicked ass in my presentation today.”
Ready to heal the world? Make it a better place? For you and for me and the entire human race?
Ok, Michael Jackson. Let’s do it.
Your crazy friend,