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I’m sure you will have seen and read many posts about the importance of “Being Kind to Yourself”. This week is International Day of Kindness and I have posted about kindness on my social media channels.
I think most of you probably have a good idea what being kind to other people means and I sincerely hope you all have a good understanding of what being kind to horses means but, what does being kind to yourself mean?
It probably means something different to each of us but I think it’s worth spending a little time thinking about it.
Psychologist Albert Ellis, the founder of rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) talks about the importance of “Unconditional Self Acceptance” and this could be a good place to start. Ellis talks about each of us working towards accepting ourselves as unique individuals with unique strengths and unique challenges. He suggests that it can take many, many years to truly accept ourselves as we are but that it’s something to work towards being comfortable with.
As I see it, this means that we avoid comparing ourselves unfavourably to others. Whether that’s comparing ourselves unfavourably to other riders we encounter or whether it’s comparing ourselves to supermodels we see in magazines and feeling dissatisfied with our appearance. In both cases comparison usually leads to disappointment.
Unconditional self acceptance also means that we relieve ourselves of the pressure that we ‘should’ or ‘must’ ride at a certain level or jump a particular height. On the contrary, we push ourselves to do these things because we want to and we wish to develop and learn not because we feel under pressure.
Unconditionally accepting ourselves means that we don’t generalise our mistakes. So instead of telling yourself that you’re a “rubbish rider” because you’ve been eliminated at the first fence you tell yourself that you simply made a mistake and you’re going to work out why the heck you did that and avoid making the same mistake again!
Unconditionally accepting ourselves DOES NOT mean that we let ourselves off the hook for bad behaviour and it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to give up on learning and working hard to fulfil our goals.
Being kind to yourself might also mean sometimes being quite firm with yourself. For example you might like to be kind to yourself with a treat of a bar of chocolate but it might not be self kindness to have two bars!
Being kind to yourself might mean making sure that you programme your riding into your week to make sure that it happens and avoiding feeling guilty about other commitments and demands on your time. Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean that you are unkind to others but it might mean that you learn to say “no” more often.
Finally, it’s worth noting that along with working towards unconditional self acceptance we can also try to unconditionally accept other people for who they are. It’s not always easy by any means but I think it’s definitely worth trying.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you feel being kind to yourself means.