The power of kindness

The power of kindness |
In all honesty it’s been a 42-year journey to be able to say, without cringing, that yes, I do love myself. But it’s not an Instagramable rainbows-and-unicorns love. I love myself very quietly, very gently — and occasionally, when it’s needed, I love myself like a lioness protecting her cubs. I’ve learned that I am responsible for my own happiness and my own sense of worth and that everything I value is built upon the foundation of how I look after myself. Because no one else is going to do it for me — it’s not their job, it’s mine.

I grew up with low self-esteem. An absent father and a troubled teenage resulted in the search for love outside myself, yet even when I found a sweet devoted boyfriend, I couldn’t really accept that I was loveable — it was like sticking a Band Aid over a festering wound.

Somehow I made it though my 20s intact. I worked hard at building my career and did my best to maintain a relationship. Looking back through my journals I see everything was focussed on the external — achievement, status, love from another. I knew something was missing but there was no way I’d stop striving to figure out what it was…

… And then, at age 32, I experienced a devastating bereavement that rewrote everything I knew about life.

Painstakingly, and with help, I pieced myself back together. I had to learn how to exist on my own, to unravel the past and find meaning in my new life — perhaps for the first time ever. Those first few years of grief and healing changed everything for me. It was like being given another chance to have the relationship I’d always wanted, but this time with MYSELF.

The by-product of all that inner excavation was the blossoming of self-worth, which I feel is the  precursor to self-love. It’s almost impossible to love yourself if you can’t see your own worth. When I realised I could say no to the things I didn’t want to do and could extricate myself from friendships that were causing me pain, I was signalling to my self that YES, you are worth more than this. The more time I spent with myself the more I had my own back and it’s amazing how fiercely you advocate on your own behalf when you only have yourself to rely on.

The most challenging piece of all this was the conscious dance with my shadows. It’s easy to accept the nice bits of ourselves but harder to hang out with the murkier stuff. I’ve sat with my obsessiveness, my cynicism, my envy, and rather than disown it I do my best to embrace it all — it’s as much a part of who I am as any of the “good” stuff. I am obsessive and I am creative. I’m cynical and I am hopeful. I am envious and I am a warrior. The door to self-love opens wider when you can hold the wonderful things in the same hand as the stuff you’re ashamed of.

All of this is a daily practice for me. Radical kindness seems to be the key whenever I come up against the temptation to put myself down. Self-love doesn’t require us to be perfect. It merely asks us to be open to accepting the truth of who we are — the light and the dark —  and to actively extend the sort of kindness we’d give to a cherished loved one. I have down days and I have fantastic days and through it all I try my very best to be kind and compassionate towards myself. To love the woman I see in the mirror because she really is doing the best she can.

Try this:

I recorded a little self-love visualisation so we could practice the cherishing together. You can listen to it over here.

This is my contribution to the April LOVE project. I invited 28 inspiring women and one brave guy to share their thoughts and stories of what self-love (how you feel about yourself) and self-care (how you look after yourself and put that self-love into action) means to them. We have a truly delicious mix of essays, videos, meditations and journal prompts for you to explore.

We started today but you can sign up at any time to get the daily self-love emails. Don’t worry if you miss a few days — I’ll be making an ebook at the end to send out the first week of May. All free, of course.

Sign ups are happening over here xo

13 responses
  1. Maddie

    I love this post Susannah. Being kind to and loving myself is a journey I’ve been on for a while now and one big hurdle I’ve found is coming across the people who see me as ferociously independent for it and actually see it as a barrier to me being in a loving relationship. It’s not about shutting other people out, it’s not a stubborn ‘I can look after myself stand’ and it’s certainly not a way of telling someone else that you don’t need them because you have yourself. BUT with all this said – I would rather be on my own and with someone I love than with some and not love myself.

    Thanks again for this :)



  2. Michelle

    I just went through a very stressful few months at work and it was the first time I realized how deeply I hang my own self-worth on my external achievements. The project wasn’t going well for awhile and it rocked me to my being to just feel so incompetent, like every opinion I held of myself was contingent on how others held me in regard. It was so alarming to feel like without my achievements and I was unlovable, even to myself. I seriously couldn’t believe the thoughts about myself that were cycling through my head. One day I was so overwhelmed that I wrote them down on paper. It was scary to see it on paper. I couldn’t even show it to my partner.

    I’m grateful for that experience because it pointed to some important work I need to do with myself. This post just really crystallized the importance of really taking the time to figure it out, especially now that I finished and rocked the project after all. I feel better, but it’s just because I’m getting that external validation that I seem to so desperately crave.

    Thank you for your bravery in writing this post. It really helped me.


  3. sarah

    wonderful and wise post. <3

  4. Heather

    I like the way you can pair the murkier stuff with the positive, that’s really smart. I like that. It makes it all okay. Great post and picture! X

  5. Sandra Pawula

    This feels genuine and lack in self-obsessions and thus reasonable and doable to me. Thank you for putting a different face on self-love, Susannah.

  6. Carrie

    This has some what ripped me open. Thank you for your words and the sense of hope that maybe one day I’ll start to stop hating myself. xx

  7. elizabeth

    love this so much! love YOU so much! xo

  8. Jen

    Beautifully said, Susannah. I felt emotional reading your words, it reflected a lot of my own journey. Thank you. x

  9. Martina

    Thanks for your honesty and openness. I admire your brave journey – I am not as far as you are, but slowly I see the importance of being good to myself. Of finding my true worth, apart from outer achievements. Of accepting my dark sides.
    Thanks so much!

  10. Marissa

    Thank you for sharing your story for the past 9 years. This post was lovely. I just listened to your podcast with Tiffany Han, but remember you from years back, and have enjoyed watching you flourish in your work and blog. I think that we may have been in an e-course with Holly Becker years ago perhaps? Your story stuck with me since I lost my brother, and the people who experience loss kind of remember each other I think. Just here to say keep on doing what you’re doing and sending you the best.

Comments are closed.