I know you’ve heard it before: be kind to yourself, like you would be to your best friend. I also assume you kinda like the sound of the idea. I mean, kindness feels good, doesn’t it? Chances are, though, doing it feels a little trickier. Maybe especially when it comes to moving and exercising your body.
But why is it so hard to operate from this place of nurturing over punishing, caring over controlling?
Consider, if you will, these three ideas:
Movement and exercise are important elements of caring for your physical and mental health.
You’ve been sold movement and exercise as virtues for as long as you can remember. As such, the choice to move or not move your body might be riddled with feelings of guilt and shame as you grapple with what you should do but can’t seem to find the motivation (or time) for.
Guilt and shame are problematic motivators when it comes to movement that is sustainable and actually nurtures you (I mean the guilt and shame feel pretty awful, right?).
Put the points above alongside each other and we’re left with a conundrum, aren’t we?
On the one hand, we know moving our body is ‘good for us’ but on the other, we’re sick of relying on guilt and shame to motivate us to move. Plus, it doesn’t work all that well, anyway.
So, what are we to do?
Enter: SelfKind movement.
I stumbled upon the idea of self-kindness when I was in the depths of self-hatred. I don’t think I would have even framed what I moved toward as self-kindness at the time, but in hindsight, I see that’s what it was. I was in a place in my life where I could never measure up or meet my self-imposed benchmark of ‘enough’. Unsurprisingly, I felt awful.
So, why self-kindness? Honestly, because self-love felt like an impossible ask, but I was sick of being my own enemy. Self-kindness felt more like a moment-by-moment choice and more easily accessible (and palatable) than self-love.
What, exactly, is self-kindness? Ultimately, it’s kindness directed towards ourselves (I hear the murmurs of ‘no duh!’). Kindness, as defined in the dictionary, means ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’.
I wonder … when was the last time you approached your movement and exercise - or, your body - with the qualities of being friendly, generous, and considerate towards yourself?
Are these words that you relate to movement and exercise (or your body) at all? Is it even possible to approach movement in this way?
I say yes, but it does take some effort and practice.
SelfKind movement is ultimately counter-cultural to the traditional fitness and wellness approach we’re all familiar with. It does NOT rely on or promote guilt, shame, body transformation, changing the way you look, striving for perfection, celebrating the grind or the ‘go hard or go home’ mentality.
Pain is not glorified, punishing yourself in the name of doing ‘enough’ is not applauded, and you do not have to give over your autonomy or inner knowing in order to succeed.
SelfKind movement flips the teacher-student paradigm on its head and puts YOU in the driver’s seat of determining what’s right (for you, right now) and ‘enough’.
SelfKind movement asks us to:
Get curious and honest about how we feel.
Prioritise ourselves, how we feel and how we want to feel, rather than a pursuit of what we tell ourselves (or are told) we should want/feel/prioritise.
Move as an act of self-kindness and self-care rather than as a way to atone for anything or simply as an act of being ‘good’.
Ok, this sounds great. But what does SelfKind movement actually look like?
ANY movement can be SelfKind. Truly.
Because self-kind movement is about the intention rather than the execution, the modality, movements and exercises themselves are up to you.
There is no inherently self-kind modality (just because Yoga looks kind, doesn’t mean the person doing it is approaching it in a kind way. It’s just as easy to beat yourself up over an ‘imperfect’ downward dog as it is to lament the shaky bicep curls you’re doing). It’s about HOW we do it, rather than WHAT we’re doing.
SelfKind movement - just like self-punishing movement, is an inside thing. And it’s a practice thing, in the sense that we get to choose it now and then again and again and again. The traditional messages of exercise are well-embedded for most of us, so it takes practice and patience to keep showing up with kindness.
But … I have physical goals, and this sounds like a way of letting myself off the hook?
Ah, yes. This is a common misconception. Do not confuse self-kindness and ‘niceness’. Sometimes (actually, OFTEN) the self-kind thing is the thing that brings up a whole lot of resistance. It’s resting when your inner critic tells you you haven’t earned it; it’s moving your body even when you don’t feel like it; it’s building strength in your hips to help you manage joint pain … At it’s core, it’s about absolute HONESTY and self-integrity. Which is probably why it can feel challenging.
Here’s the thing though: we don’t let the challenge of it stop us from continuing to CHOOSE to show up for ourselves with kindness. It becomes our guiding lens.
You can start (or continue) right now if you want to.
Pause at the end of this paragraph and take a beat. Let whatever is in contact with the floor or furniture really be in connection. Notice what that feels like. Let your shoulders drop, unclench your teeth. Close your eyes if it feels good. Take three slow breaths. Then ask yourself: what do I need now? NOT what should I do now; what do I need - in order to feel connected and nurtured. Just notice what comes. Maybe the answer is crystal clear, maybe it’s altogether absent. Just notice.
Then, decide what you can do in response. If the answer is crystal clear but you don’t think you can actually do it right now (because maybe time or location is a challenge), figure out what you can do that fits the scenario you find yourself in.
A solid sleep might become two minutes of eyes-closed, breathing. A long walk might become a short one. A yoga class might become three minutes of moving what you can - shoulder circles, ankle rotations, giving yourself a hug. If you have more time and space - great! But don’t let a ‘lack’ of those things stop you from offering yourself kindness right now.
And, when there is more time and space, try this 25 minute upper body reset movement session out. Approach it from that lens of kindness toward yourself and your body and see how different that feels to ‘should-ing’ yourself there. The session is a slow and gentle one, combining somatic exercise, yoga and pilates, to unwind tension and feel more at ease.
I’d love for you to let me know how you go! I’d love to connect - find me over on Instagram and tag me in your SelfKind moments or send me a DM.
If you want MORE SelfKind movement and mindset tips, make sure to sign up for my Simple Shifts to SelfKind Habits newsletter and find out more about joining me inside the SelfKind Hub - where SelfKind movement and mindset is what we do.