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8 Ways To Be So Much Kinder To Yourself. Starting Today.

"Be [kind] to yourself. It's hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all of the time." — Christine Arylo


Love is kind. When it comes to how the Good Book defines love, the first word that is used is "patient." The second? It's kind. I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a counseling session with a married couple and been like, "Wow. Have y'all ever been kind to one another? Like…ever?" I also can't keep up with how many times I've noticed people whose words and actions, about and towards themselves, seem to be lacking in kindness too.

And since I wholeheartedly believe that there is absolutely no way that you can claim to love anyone, including yourself, without exhibiting vast levels of kindness, I thought it would be a good idea to share with y'all some helpful ways to start being kinder to yourself. So that you can see yourself in a better life. So that you can love yourself (even) more.

1. Determine to Extend to Yourself Kindness, Compassion and Respect

Recently, someone asked me to name three things that I thought people who are too hard on themselves were lacking. What immediately came to mind was kindness, compassion, and respect. And just what do all of these things look like when it comes to how you should express them to yourself?

To be kind is to be considerate, gentle, and even indulgent. That said, do you constantly put other people's feelings and needs above your own, even to your detriment? If so, you're not being very kind to yourself. When you make mistakes, do you constantly rehash them and blame yourself to the point of invoking emotional self-abuse? If so, you're not being very kind to yourself. Are you the one who constantly gives to others and yet you can't recall the last time you did something special for yourself? If so, you're not being very kind to yourself.

Compassion? Self-compassion is all about doing what the definition of compassion speaks about — "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering". When something bad — or even unpreferred — happens to you, it's OK to extend sympathy, yes, to yourself. And when you are truly self-compassionate, you tend to be proactive as all get out about figuring out how to limit the time of suffering that you must endure. That might mean that a break-up requires going to therapy. Or that the end of a friendship will cause you to want to get closure so that there is peace between the two of you. Or if you've had a health scare, rather than beating yourself up over what you think you could've done differently, you figure out how to move more wisely going forward.

And respect? Respect is about esteem and esteem is about being valued. Do you require that the people in your life treat you like they value you? While we're at it, do you treat yourself like you value yourself? So much chaos, confusion, and frustration could be alleviated if we made it a point and practice to be kinder, more compassionate, and required to be treated with respect in this life.

2. Schedule in Quality Time with Yourself

By this time, I'm pretty sure you know what the five love languages are — physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, and quality time. Yet when it comes to loving on yourself, how good are you at expressing your own top two love languages? While my love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation, when it comes to being kind to myself, I know that all five need to be applied and that quality time, especially, needs to be a top priority.

Quality time with yourself is about turning off your notifications and reading a book. Quality time with yourself is about taking your own self on a date every once in a while. Quality time with yourself is about going on a walk before breakfast or after dinner, just to clear your mind. Quality time with yourself is about pulling out a piece of paper and writing down things that you like about yourself and are proud of. Quality time with yourself is about really listening to your mind, body, and spirit so that you can acknowledge when one or all of these areas express exhaustion or the need for some sort of pampering.

I don't know about y'all but the older that I get, the more I realize that 24 hours go by pretty quickly, and oftentimes, a lot of that time, goes to everyone but myself. Well, it used to be that way. For the past few years, I am all about giving myself some much-needed quality time. And you know what? I'm much calmer and far more focused and centered because of it.

3. Master the Art of Self-Comfort

Recently, I took a trip to go visit my goddaughters. One is 10 and the other is 2. Something that the two-year-old has mastered in a way that the 10-year-old hasn't (yet) is the ability to self-soothe. And boy, if that won't preach, I don't know what will! Although we are not an island, it's still important to know how to comfort oneself instead of always relying on other people to do it. Why? For one thing, folks are human and humans are fallible which means, at some point, they are going to disappoint you. Secondly, no one should be given so much power that if you have a need that they can't — or won't — meet, you are instantly in shambles because of it.

If you get bad news and your bestie pushes you to voicemail, you should be able to comfort yourself. If you had a hard day and your partner can't immediately discuss it with you, you should be able to comfort yourself. If you have moments when you don't feel as insecure as you would like, you should be able to comfort yourself. At the end of the day, self-comfort is all about being able to reassure yourself that you're a good person, that things are going to work out in due time and you're going to be OK until they are — and until that happens, you will figure out how to make yourself more comfortable in your reality.

Self-comfort is a superpower that doesn't get nearly enough props. I promise you that if you master it, it will totally change your life.

4. Devote Time, Each Day, to Your Dreams/Passions

A motto that I made up and live by, more and more, is "Chase nothing. You were born with your purpose and even your dreams come to you, so chase nothing." Instead, honor your dreams and passions by investing some of your time and talent into them. Not every once in a while. Not even for an hour, a couple of times each month. While you're in the process of putting your to-do list together, carve out 20 minutes to do something as it directly relates to a personal goal that you want to achieve.

The reason why this should be seen as an act of kindness is that just think about it — every day, a lot of us give someone else 6-12 hours of our time, oftentimes to build their dreams and passions on some level. By being intentional about setting some time aside for your gifts, your ambitions, your desires, it reminds you that what you want to manifest is important; so important that it deserves your undivided attention — not occasionally…daily.

5. Learn What Your Limits Are

As a survivor of many forms of abuse, whenever I'm asked to simplify that definition of abuse, while I do like what I once heard Dr. Phil say many years ago (that it's the "abnormal use of something"), I think it's about dismissing or disrespecting someone's limits; especially after someone has stated what they are. This goes back to my goddaughters again. As close as I am to them, whenever I see them, I don't rush to touch them. I let them know that I am thrilled to be in their presence, that I love them, and then either I will ask for a hug or wait for them to come to me. That's because their personal space is their personal space. A part of the reason why I'm so hypersensitive to this is that I grew up around people who, quite frankly, didn't give a damn about my boundaries — even to the point of giving me diaries, reading them, and then punishing me for what they read.

Even as an adult, in real-time, I will state certain things that I don't want to happen as it directly relates to myself, and some of my relatives will railroad right over what I said and do what they want anyway. Disrespectful. Whew, so disrespectful. And when we grow up not having people to 1) teach us boundaries and/or 2) honor our boundaries, we can grow up not knowing how to set the proper limits either. That results in us being people pleasers and/or exhausting ourselves and/or feeling bad whenever we say "no." Listen, people who truly love and respect you are going to adhere to your limits because they will want you to do the same for them. If you have gone so long without having any — or providing consequences to those who dishonor them — this is a textbook example of not being very kind to yourself. Isn't it about time that you start?

6. Treat Yourself. Daily.

When it comes to self-care content, you are probably never going to see a time when I'm not going to shout out the importance of treating yourself in some shape, form, or fashion. First, it gives you something to look forward to. Second, it reminds you of how important it is to reward — "something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc." — yourself. Third, it "programs" you into the habit of doing something special for yourself, just because.

So, whether it's a pedicure after work, a luxurious bubble bath at home (check out "How About You Treat Yourself To A Luxurious Fall-Themed Bath?"), some takeout from your favorite restaurant (check out "10 Safety Practices For Ordering Takeout (During A Pandemic)"), a half a pint of your favorite ice cream (wink), or hopping on a site to purchase something that you've been eyeing for a while now — get used to planning to treat yourself. Not (just) on your birthday. Not only on special occasions.

Hell, every day is a special occasion, if you ask me. Be kind to yourself by loving on yourself by treating yourself. It's a simple practice that goes a really long way.

7. End Each Day, Acknowledging the Things You Did Well

It never fails. Whenever I ask someone to list five things that they like and then five things that they don't like about themselves, they ALWAYS start off with the "dislike" side. While there really is such a thing as a "negative bias" (which is why it's important to be hypervigilant about the amount of negativity that you take in from people and devices on a daily basis), oftentimes we can "rewire our brain" by focusing on the positive more often. One way to do that is to make a commitment to yourself, each and every day, to not close your eyes until you have vocally acknowledged at least three things that you did well that day. If it was showing up to work early, say it. If it was biting your tongue to keep the peace with someone who lives to trigger you, say it. If it was choosing not to break your budget to get something that honestly can wait a few more weeks, say it.

There is plenty of scientific data to support the fact that when we say things out loud, that makes it easier for us to remember them. So, make a promise to yourself, right here and right now, that you won't let one more day go by without "clapping for yourself", verbally, for a job well done — so that you can get used to "staying in the light" by thinking about the more positive side of things; especially as it relates to yourself.

8. Let Each Day Go at the End of Each One

This final point, oh, I'm preaching to the choir, right here, chile. You know, there's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26-27 — NKJV) I like these verses because 1) they're a reminder that there is nothing wrong with being angry; you just need to make wise choices in your anger and 2) they drive home the fact that holding a grudge is basically begging for trouble up the road — that it really is best to learn how to just…let things go.

For the record, I personally don't think that "letting things go" means not holding people accountable if they wronged you, that you should suppress your feelings if something doesn't sit well with you or that you should pretend like things are OK when they clearly aren't. To me, letting go is 1) purposing in your mind to control only what you can; 2) deciding to "state your cause" when the time is right and not nag once you do; 3) forgiving so that you aren't harboring negativity; 4) extending the grace and mercy that you would want to receive if the shoe was on the other foot; 5) not letting what happened yesterday have some much power over you that it wrecks an entirely new day.

Meditation can help you do this. Prayer can help you do this. Sharing your feelings in a safe space like with your spouse, significant other, or a close friend can help you to do this. Just make sure that you do it. Because when you make the choice to not internalize, harbor, or constantly rehearse things, it can prevent you from feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or totally stressed out.

Yep, letting stuff go is definitely an act of kindness because it ultimately helps you approach things from a place of peace and productiveness instead of bitterness and stagnation. And when you do this, you are being good to yourself — and when that transpires, life oftentimes is kinder to you as well. Hmph. Funny how that plays out, huh? Yeah. Exactly.

For more inspiration, self-care, and healing tips, check out xoNecole's Wellness section here.

Featured image by Getty Images

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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