Are you harsh or are you gentle in the way that you treat others? What about in the way you treat yourself? Gentleness, actually, is the best way of getting what you want in life, yet many people are very harsh with themselves. Their internal dialog is unforgiving and mean. There is a “man up” frame of mind and a tendency to criticize harshly if things don’t turn out the way they “should.” I have a friend who once described her process of getting gentle with herself as that of a feather caressing a bubble without popping it. That is really how gentle we want to be with ourselves.
A lot of times people don’t even realize how harsh they are being with themselves, but imagine if there was a tape recorder recording your thoughts. What would it sound like? Often we might hear:
- You shouldn't have done that.
- Don’t eat that, you fat slob.
- That was stupid!
- I made a mistake and that person’s not going to like me anymore.
- Why did you do that?
All of these things are really harsh ways that people treat themselves. Usually, you would never treat someone else that way. Occasionally, it does happen, but when someone talks to others that way or treats other people harshly, they never get what they want.
People create barriers around harshness. No one likes to be talked to in a gruff, mean, or pushy way. Whenever you are in conflict with someone, kill them with kindness and you’ll go far. That’s where that cliché comes from. Learn to be gentle in your approach. Try it with cornstarch, yes cornstarch. When I touch cornstarch mixed with water I can form it into a ball, and that ball becomes very hard when I am harsh with it and try to force my way in, but when I’m gentle it gives and becomes liquid once more. It is the same with our treatment of other people and ourselves.
When you make a mistake, when you do something that is less than ideal or less than perfect, if you can accept yourself, love yourself, and be understanding with yourself, that softness will bring with it flow and movement. You won’t be stuck fighting the mistake. I made a big mistake recently, several big mistakes actually. It was because I was overwhelmed, and I was working my fingers to the bone. One of those mistakes I made caused me, for a moment, to get harsh and feel like I did something I didn’t want to do. This careless error didn’t feel good and it affected a couple of other people. That mistake, however, can be taken as a wakeup call. It is an opportunity to say, “Oh sweetheart, I’ve been so overworked that it’s starting to bleed out. It’s bleeding onto me and to other people. What can I do to take better care of myself?” Rather than, “Oh, my gosh, you’re an absent-minded fool! Why did you do that?”
I heard once that when we use the word, "you" while speaking we are more reprimanding of ourselves. We are harsher with ourselves than when we say use, "I," instead. Treat yourself like the precious gem that you are, and treat other people, when you are in conflict, gently. You will go much further. Similar to the law of least resistance, when we force ourselves on our own self or on others we hit a wall, but when we are gentle, kind, and loving, that is the most powerful force of all.
Heather Hans, LCSW, MSW, MBA, CPIC, is a Visionary, Healer & Teacher, and the author of The Heart of Self-Love: How to Radiate with Confidence. It is Heather's firm belief that loving oneself is necessary to have fulfilling relationships and a successful life.