This is an article about some life-changing advice.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I heard it, and I've been sharing it with almost everyone I meet.
It came from my doctor--a fairly new doctor, since my old doctor retired last year--during my routine, annual checkup.
Everything's OK, thankfully, and at the end of our fairly brief session, she rattled off the kinds of things I anticipate hearing after an annual physical:
- "Watch your weight."
- "Take your vitamins."
- "Wear sunscreen."
Then, the kicker: "Don't forget to be kind to yourself."
Her phrasing really caught me short. I didn't expect it. I almost started laughing, in fact. Because, ask yourself, when was the last time anyone told you to remember to be kind to yourself?
We talked about it a bit. She said she gives this advice to almost everyone, especially now. It's the one thing most of us are forgetting to do.
Look, it's amazing how quickly the "new abnormal," as some people call it, has become fairly normal.
Global pandemic? Old news. Economic collapse? We're months into it.
Incredibly contentious political season in which some people are being paid millions to increase everyone's existential angst?
Welcome to 2020.
Business owners are facing unprecedented challenges. People's careers have been upended. Working parents are facing the likelihood of months, or maybe even an entire school year, with their kids at home.
Some of us are doing very well.
But others, many of us, are barely holding on. I've heard from so many readers lately, beating themselves up over their economic prospects, or how they've fallen off the fitness train, or how they've been shorter with their kids than they want to be.
You know what? My doctor is right. People need to remember to give themselves a break.
Being kind to yourself is about making allowances and accepting yourself, while still pushing yourself toward the things you value and want to achieve.
It's also about showing love for yourself -- tough love, even. Encouragement, truth, aspirations.
Holding yourself to goals, but also giving yourself room to breathe -- to admit that you're only human, and you're part of a human race that's facing unprecedented times.
You're going to fall short sometimes. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself.
Much like how flight attendants used to tell us that in the event of an emergency, you're supposed to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others, there's something similar at play here.
You're unlikely to be much good for other people if you can't give yourself a break, first.
In fact, as I've reflected on this, I think it's almost like an opposite application of the Golden Rule.
Instead of doing for others as you'd want them to do for you, this advice calls you to be willing to do for yourself what you'd like to think you'd be a big enough person to do for others.
I've written a fair amount recently about how to give good advice.
The key takeaway: Ask more questions, offer fewer specifics. Because the person asking for advice knows a lot more about their situation than you do.
Thus, I'm aware that it's quite possible that you don't need to hear this.
Perhaps you're among the group of people who are doing just fine now, and you don't need anyone else to remind you to treat yourself with kindness. I'm happy for you, truly.
But I'll bet there are people around you who need to hear it.
And now you know what to share with them.