What is loving kindness toward oneself? From my point of view, in a word, it is acceptance. Acceptance as what is right now, rather than resignation or abdication. It is the sense of catching the river being itself in the moment — calm and clear in late summer, muddy and turbulent in the throes of winter melt in the spring — and not wishing it to be other. It is catching ourselves in our imperfection, often in a period of learning, or in stagnation — in which things that are invisible are happening. It is not wishing to be other, while not relinquishing our interest in allowing, encouraging even, ourself to grow and change.
How to succeed in this acceptance is a beautiful challenge. It has many components, but one central element is to work on being intentional. When faced with a decision, we can be inactive, which in itself is a decision, albeit a hidden one. Sometimes we take a decision, but timidly. In both cases, if the outcome is not as we had wished, we can easily resort to self-criticism and rumination, both of which are energy-consuming and non-productive. Or perhaps we say, “well, I didn’t really choose that” and blame others, never really taking responsibility for our behaviour. There isn’t much that we truly control in our lives and ceding the little power that we have can make us feel like a victim of others’ decisions and behaviours and steal our mojo.
When we choose a direction boldly and it doesn’t work out, it becomes merely an error from which we can learn, a mistake, and somewhat less vulnerable to self- and other-attack, still in power, accepting both the mistake and the lesson. Rather than attacking ourselves, we may want to imagine that we, like others we love, are permitted mistakes, without those mistakes being so catastrophic as to cause us to denigrate the one who made it (ourself!). We can practice empathic, tender self-talk, learn new ways to accept our own errors. “That was stupid,” can become: “That was a mistake. Not terrible, you’ll be all right.”
As we would say to someone we love.