1000 Hearts Blog

Self-Compassion; we are seeking kindness, not perfection.

August 22, 2020
by Sarah De Jonge

In the four and a half years since starting 1000 Hearts, I have realised that self-compassion is the seed which germinates to allow us to offer true kindness to others. I hear from many people in our hearts community who are constantly looking outwards, trying to do more and be a perfect paragon of generosity, and I recognise myself in those people. I want to take their hands and say "how about you turn some of that kindness inwards? Allow your true self to be imperfect. Allow your best effort to be a little messy."

The number one rule of becoming a heartist is to keep the first heart you make. Keep it as a reminder of self-kindness and a symbol of taking care of yourself before giving to others (kinda like the oxygen mask in the plane, right? You're no good to anyone else if you can't breathe).

I've been working on this self-compassion beast for a looooong time.....a lifetime, in fact. Many of us struggle with early experiences which shape a belief that we are unlovable. This belief can evolve into the "not good enough" myth. So many of us try to achieve a feeling of being good enough, not realising that it's a state of heart and mind, rather than a goal than can be achieved through relentless striving.

This community is so full of kindness, compassion and goodness - I am constantly astounded by it. We all have huge capacity for love, gentleness and courage, and now is the time to make space to offer our own hearts a little cherishing. An unexpected joy of running 1000 Hearts is the immense growth I have seen in myself and others as we grapple with the concept of kindness. It seems really simple to begin with, doesn't it? Make hearts, give them away = happy heartists and recipients!

However, I have had to make some big decisions in order to keep the project running and during these decisions, I have had to delve deep into my own values and choose a way forward which keeps kindness front and centre. Likewise, I have heard from many heartists who have struggled with boundaries around their making and sharing of hearts - like the woman who made delightful embroidered hearts and couldn't keep up with demands from friends and family. Through a series of messages, we chatted about looking after herself and holding onto the joy of hearting rather than allowing it to become an obligation and pressure.

There was another heartist who was making large batches on a regular basis and started to become so focused on her goals that she lost enjoyment. I suggested that she slow down, maybe add a few decorative stitches to some hearts, find the fun in it again so it wasn't feeling so much like a job.

Then I had a question from a heartist whose granddaughter was making hearts; "The hearts she makes so beautifully are imperfect, but made so perfectly with love...can I still send them to you?"

I hear these little disclaimers so often; "my stitches aren't very good", "I'm not very neat", "they are far from perfect". The thing that touches me about this is that all of us, in some way, ask this question...am I good enough? Is this thing that I made OK? Do I have something worthy to offer? My answer to the questions is this...if your hearts are made with love, care, compassion and good intentions, they are perfect. If you can forgive yourself the inevitable messy stitches, knotted bits and wonky edges, they are more perfect still.

The underlying value of 1000 Hearts, our guiding light and touchstone, is kindness. Kindness to self "yes, I am good enough" and kindness to others "please have a small piece of my good-enough heart."

As heartists, we are people who believe in kindness and we understand the power it can have. In my experience, we are often also extremely hard on ourselves and frequently find it difficult to be generous and gentle with ourselves. I have come to believe that we cannot be truly and authentically kind to others if we are not operating from a place of self-compassion. If we are truly living out the value of kindness, we apply it to everyone, including ourselves, no matter how imperfect or broken we know ourselves to be.

We can never achieve perfection, but luckily it's not required here. Remember in life and in hearting, it's enough to be here and to do your best. As my daughter said, just being here and trying to make the world a bit kinder is a huge thing in itself. In a world so focused on achievements, goals and perfection, let us quietly fly a flag for slow stitching, imperfect hearts and small gestures of goodness.

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