31 words to create a guilt-free life, finding the freedom to be your most powerful self

Befriending yourself may not seem easy or natural to you right now. But it is important, and it is possible. There are many practices you can engage in to help you build a healthier relationship with yourself.

In the book 31 Words to Create a Guilt-Free Life: Finding the Freedom to Be Your Most Powerful Self editor Karen Bouris shares an excellent 3-step exercise for practicing kindness and befriending ourselves.

  • Write down some of the kindest things others have done for you. Maybe your best friend supported you through a really hard time. Maybe your spouse surprised you with a sweet note. Maybe your daughter gave you a hug when you needed it most. Be very specific. Include how this made you feel physically and emotionally.
  • Next, “with the same pleasure and leisure,” write down the kindest things you’ve done for others.
  • Then, “once you’ve got a nice long list and you’re basking the memory of all of this kindness,” write a list of kind things you can do for yourself every day this month. Include both quick things — such as giving yourself a compliment — and longer activities — such as letting yourself sleep in on the weekend.

Here are other quick suggestions you  might add to your list: smiling at yourself in the mirror; acknowledging how you’re feeling today; stretching your body; savoring a cup of tea; thanking your body; asking yourself what you need right now and then responding; asking for help; taking one task off your to-do list.

And a few longer activities: learning more about boundaries and how to set and sustain them; engaging in your favorite hobby; journaling about your feelings; moving your body; having lunch with a close friend; taking a nap; making your favorite meal.

I know that for many of us a big reason why we’re not kind to ourselves has to do with deserving. In other words, we worry that we don’t deserve kindness.

Here’s a great reminder from the Buddha, which Karen quotes in her book:

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

Of course, a quote, however profound, may not loosen those tightly held beliefs of deserving (or lack thereof). But it can be a helpful start.

Write down the Buddha’s quote in your journal. Re-read it. And start compiling your list of kind things. Add to it when you think of something new. And just begin.

What are the kindest things you can do for yourself? Today? This holiday season? Next month?