It's a wonderful idea, one that everyone can get behind. But to actually be kind requires a great deal more attention, focus and commitment than meets the eye. Why is being kind so tricky? Because we’re too often unkind to ourselves making it nearly impossible to hold kindness for others. Kindness toward ourselves is built on a foundation of self-acceptance. And there’s the issue; we’ve trained ourselves away from holding ourselves with self-acceptance in a real, sustained way. Decades of individually comparing and competing, has left us with a feeling of perpetual inadequacy. From this place, we dig deeper, push harder, and further strive toward an imaginary podium, some line in the sand, that when we finally cross, we erroneously believe we will have "arrived".
In contrast, consider the first paragraph from Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron: “We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty feeling that we’re bad and hoping we’re good, the identities that we so deeply cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time, our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake”.
If we are to be kind in the world, we must first hold ourselves kindly. Without self-acceptance this is not possible. Self-acceptance allows us to stand in the middle of all of our imperfections and flaws with grace and dignity. It empowers us to move fluidly through life’s obstacles without first wasting energy while judging or beating ourselves up. Think about it- are you able to cope in a more skillful way after a round of negative self-talk, or when you are empowered by the understanding that you’re good enough, strong enough, smart enough, flaws and all?
It’s important that we don’t confuse self-acceptance with giving up or laziness. Self-acceptance is not a “pass” for continued individual development. Let’s view it instead as the super-power it is. Self-acceptance is the fuel for the deeper, harder work that we get to do as we become more self-aware. This awareness grants us the ability to choose be kind to ourselves, and from here we can choose to share our kindness; We can choose to serve and nurture, help and provide. In this way, kindness becomes the bedrock for a trusting, thriving, and innovative environment.
How does this all map back to your leadership? The kindness that you exhibit supports compassionate generosity in the workplace; the belief that everyone is doing the best they can today. This culture of acceptance and kindness builds a community imbued with trust, where people can take risks and be creative in ways that are not supported by an overly judgmental or critical environment.