What do you value most in life? What would you like to be remembered for? If someone you admire was giving a speech about the type of person you are, what would you like them to say? The answers to these questions help identify our core values,which determine who we are and how we live our lives. I’ve discovered that it’s worthwhile checking in with them from time to time to make sure we are living in a way that feels meaningful and allows contentment to flourish.
I started 1000 Hearts after reading Russ Harris’ book The Happiness Trap, which helps to identify your values and take action towards them, rather than being guided by fear and other transient emotions.
If it sounds interesting, please read the book – it was an important one for me because I identified kindness as one of my guiding values and my action was to start 1000 Hearts, which turned out to be a game-changer!
Keeping my values in sight keeps me steady and on track, but I’ve discovered how easy it is to let them slip, especially when you find yourself struggling with those tough emotions like anxiety, fear, hopelessness, grief and self-doubt. Often when we struggle, it’s because we’ve unknowingly lost sight of what’s really important to us.
I recently listed my values for a wise woman I know, and when I got to kindness, she looked up and said “Kindness?? But you’re so unkind to yourself.” She left it hanging and it was up to me to read the subtext; we’re not living by our values if we’re not applying them to ourselves.
In the 1000 Hearts community, many of us struggle with this. We focus our energy on being good to others and forget about self-compassion. But if we truly live by the value of kindness, that means offering it to everyone including ourselves, and not just when it’s easy, convenient or beneficial for us to do so. We also need to get really good at accepting kindness from others because if we are always giving, we create imbalance and inequality in our relationships, leaving us burned out, anxious and depleted.
Are your recognising yourself here? Have you kidded yourself that you can offer compassion to others while being self-critical? Do you demand more of yourself than you would from others and feel ashamed when you can’t keep up with your own expectations? Do you value kindness but deny it to your own precious, imperfect, struggling self? Yup, me too. But I’m working on it, and I invite you to as well.
Luckily, I’m discovering that we can generate kindness in abundance if we ensure the source of it, our own heart, is well taken care of. Allow yourself to receive care, kindness and help from others, and ask for what you need. Think about how good it feels to help others, and allow them to have that feeling through helping you. To experience kindness thoroughly and fully, we need to get good at giving, receiving and internalising it.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Geshe Tenzin Zopa, a Buddhist monk, about self-compassion. He said that in order to be good people who bring love into the world, we need to protect ourselves and ensure we are receiving goodness and love too. Otherwise, we are denying ourselves the very thing we value, which makes no sense. If you default to giving, make sure you examine your motives – are you giving from a place of self-love and abundance, or from a need to feel validated and worthy by helping others?
When we’re more comfortable giving than receiving, self-compassion can be really difficult. A good starting place is to make yourself a heart. It doesn’t need to be perfector neat or “good”. It just needs to be made with love for the recipient, and in this case it’s going to be you. Immerse yourself in the process. Think of what you need to hear from yourself and say it gently (“I am enough” is a good start). Turn off the TV and listen to the gentle punch of the needle and the fibrous drag of the thread through the wool felt. Watch your careful stitches create seams where there used to be disconnected pieces. And as your mind throws up thoughts of failure and fraud, remember – be kind, be kind, be kind.
I’m still a beginner in this whole self-compassion thing, but I’m slowly gaining some tough lessons which turn my old beliefs upside down and inside out (what a great feeling!) I’m learning that it’s wonderful to be a kind, generous and loving person, but I need to check in with myself to make sure I’m coming from a healthy place and not neglecting my other values like self-compassion, equality and honesty.
A good friend recently said to me “It’s so ironic that you run a kindness project when you find it so hard to be kind to yourself!”. Maybe it's irony, but maybe it’s wisdom…maybe some part of me knew that 1000 Hearts would lead to the most important lesson of my life, and that kindness to others would be my pathway to self-compassion. Thanks for walking with me x
A follow-up to last year's posts about self-compassion, and a reminder to heartists that kindness starts with our own imperfect selves.Read more
How to safely make and share hearts during the COVID-19 pandemicRead more