Our voices are our most powerful tool. So why do we weaponize them against ourselves with harmful self-dialogue? We pinch and prod ourselves whilst scrunching our noses and hurling insults at ourselves and yes, especially at the beginning of each year! We’ve normalised starting our year with negative self talk about our body parts, facial features, character traits and quirks.   

Nobody talks about the fact that more often than not, the most toxic voice in our lives is ours!

Yeah, we are about to go there, so make yourself a cup of tea, grab a mimosa, glass of wine, water or whatever your beverage of choice is and sneak off on your own for this heart to heart. 

There’s a Bible verse that says, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” meaning the things that we meditate/think on flow over into our speech and become our reality. This manifestation thing is real and impacts more than our dreams and desires. It also influences how we show up in this world – for others and ourselves! 

Why are we so quick to correct the negative narrative that we overhear our children or loved ones speak over themselves yet we fail dismally in extending ourselves the same grace? Why is it easier to show and be kind to others and not to ourselves? Remember, “charity begins at home.”  

KINDNESS – a noun

I like the American Dictionary’s definition of Kindness; the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people, or an act showing this quality.

According to a 2017 study, women find it harder to practise self-kindness than men. I’m honestly not surprised by this at all! Is it simplistic of me to suggest that our patriarchal societal norms shoulder a decent amount of that blame for this? In fact, I would even go so far as to say that patriarchally informed teachings of spiritual principles such as Christian scripture have reinforced this erroneous belief that self-kindness is an egotistical, self-indulgent, vain pursuit that somehow renders women weak or lacking in substance. 

For years we’ve heard pastors passionately preach, “love your neighbour,” whilst sadly omitting the, “as thyself”  part in their emphatic exhortation of “Godly love”. While we can’t accuse these preachers of quoting untruths, we can point out that quoting half-truths of scripture does and has led to erroneously harmful practical application. (See previous blog post titled: Why You Need to Radically & Extravagantly Love Yourself: A Manifesto)) In its entirety, this scripture highlights the fact that the love of others is a direct overflow of self-love. As RuPaul so eloquently puts it;

“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” 

Research has also proven a positive correlation between self-kindness and our psychological well-being. People who regularly show themselves kindness exhibit a greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. Self-Kindness has also been proven to correlate with less anxiety, depression, shame, and fear of failure.

A Harvard psychologist by the name of Christopher Germer, wrote in his book ‘The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion’, that there are five pivotal modes of  expressing self-compassion/kindness in our lives; 

  • Physical. 
  • Mental. 
  • Emotional. 
  • Relational. 
  • Spiritual. 

One way I physically show myself kindness is by running three to four times a week. Initially, when I started running it was from a place of vanity. I needed to lose weight but as I got into the discipline of running it very quickly became a mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual practice of self-kindness.

I am notoriously hard on myself and running very quickly exposes the multiple ways I’ve caused myself harm by being unkind towards myself! More often than not I would berate myself for not running fast enough or feeling tired too quickly. Until one day one of my neighbours joined me and started telling our other neighbours about how fit, fast and strong I was. Not only are we kick to show kindness to others, but we are also more accepting, dare I say expectant of it from others. 

I wish I could say that that was the end of my running self-berating sessions.  

One winter’s evening my negative internal running dialogue was at peak performance. I looked down at my legs and instead of feeling frustrated by my thick thighs, I was hit with the realization of how incredibly strong my legs are. The thought took my breath away and I was forced to slow down my running pace as I became overwhelmed with emotions. My mind began to replay years of unkind words that I’d previously hurled at my thick thighs, wide hips, and butt. 

At some point, I had to stop running because I couldn’t see clearly through my streaming tears. There I was at the corner of Louis Botha and Corlett Drive during rush hour traffic unable to contain the sound of anguish rising through my throat as each harmful word scrolled through my mind. 

Despite all the verbal abuse I had subjected my body to, it was still loyally serving me. It was like the scales fell off my eyes and I was finally seeing and experiencing my body for all that it truly was – strong, resilient and dependable. That evening God woke me up to the fact that I was misusing my voice by not only damaging my psyche but essentially questioning my maker’s workmanship. I am forever changed by this revelation. 

“I strive, each day, to be kinder to myself, and to value my worth. And I know I’m not alone. Countless others struggle with this very same issue, but I want to leave you with this:

There is only one of you in this world, and we need you.

You are perfect in your own way.  You are worthy of your love.

Let’s promise each other to be a little bit kinder to ourselves today, and each day to come.”

Maya Angelou

Practising self-kindness sets the stage for a better relationship with ourselves, others, and God. It is an important ingredient for our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. I have noticed how being kinder to myself has also decreased feelings of anxiety. Self-kindness impacts our disposition towards ourselves and others.

As we begin another year, I hope that we will take the time to identify how you have previously deprived yourself of kindness. Ask yourself, in what area of my life am I the most unkind to myself? What is the root cause of the negative self-talk? What false narrative have I bought into about womanhood? Be brutally honest with yourself. It may feel uncomfortable to go there but I challenge you to sit in the discomfort. Feel the weight of its truth and allow the tears to freely flow and cleanse yourself of the lies. 

Forgive yourself and uproot the lies that you’ve believed and spoken over yourself with the transformative truth of your beauty. Here’s to a year of purging harmful verbiage and setting our captive voices free to reverberate throughout our body, mind and soul.