We all would like to think we are kind all of the time. But, we also know that we can actually struggle to act with kindness sometimes. Something happens and our thoughts trip us up and cause us to react in a not so kind way. This is because our thoughts are extremely powerful and can impact greatly on how we show up each day, and interact with those around us. If our thoughts are to blame, then it makes sense that the key to everyday kindness is learning more about our thoughts and reactions.
The more we notice and understand our feelings, the more we are open to understanding the feelings of others. Yes, we are talking about self-awareness, as we believe a little more self-knowledge is the key to being kinder, nicer people more of the time. After all, when you are happy in your own skin and are comfortable with your own shortcomings, you tend to be more understanding, more forgiving and more empathetic.
Our Not So Kind Reactions
We all have come across that person who just seems to want to be mean to everyone. They are mean to the person serving them coffee, they are mean to their co-workers, and you can bet they are also mean to themselves. Before we start judging that person, we should remember that we all have the tendency to be this person. If something has gone wrong in our day, it is easy to take out our pain on others. We snap at our kids or swear at the driver who cuts in front of us. As embarrassing as it is to admit, we can definitely be that mean person too. The key to everyday kindness, therefore, lies in breaking out of this mean-cycle whenever we feel it happening.
Self-Awareness is the Key
Self-awareness is defined as having conscious knowledge of one’s character, feelings, motives, and desires. Basically, this means becoming aware that we are actually in control of how we react to any given situation. By knowing more about our character we can identify thought patterns that may be causing us to react in ways that are not always as empathetic or caring as we would like.
If someone is ticking you off, and you can feel your temper rising, stop, and consider what is triggering this reaction. Could it be that the actions of this person are highlighting a flaw in us or perhaps remind us of a time we were scared or felt out of control?
Self-awareness means taking a moment to consider our reactions and see if our first reactions are the right ones. Self-awareness helps us interact more than react. It means knowing your motives and being able to decide if they are reasonable or not. If we are acting on auto-pilot and having knee-jerk reactions to events, then we are not practising self-awareness and are susceptible to biases and stereotyping when interacting with others. Life becomes very stressful when we are only reacting to events around us, so by being more aware of ourselves, we can learn to interact with kindness to others around us.
Understanding Reactions in Others
Not only does self-awareness help us to understand our reactions, but it also helps us be more forgiving and kind to others too. When we see someone reacting in anger or frustration, we can show more empathy and compassion, as we know that we also have the ability in us to react badly. We know we all have flaws that we are working on. Self-awareness allows us to embrace these flaws in us and in others and accept that this is part of what makes us human.
The Key and How To Find It
Self-awareness is the key to more kindness for our world. When we learn to interact from a position of self-awareness, we find that kindness and compassion come more naturally. We all have access to this key. It simply requires us being kind and compassionate to ourselves, including all our flaws and mistakes. This is the crucial key from which kindness for others can flow.
Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.Thich Nhat Hanh