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What is the kindest thing you can say about yourself?

What is the kindest thing you can say about yourself? This might seem like a banal question. But take a moment and dig into it. Interesting things start to happen as your mind riffles through possible answers. Emotions may bubble up: worry that you are bragging, uncertainty that it is true, surprise that it seems true, shy pride that your answer truly reflects you, feeling pleased as other answers come up, chagrin that what you wish you could say doesn't fit.....and so on.

Whenever I ask my clients this question, there is almost always a pause. Silence. They turn to gaze out my office window. Then, sighing, many say "I don't really know...."

I get it, I tell them. It's a hard question, right? It is easier to list all the things wrong with us: the things we fail at, our selfish tendencies, letting down those whom we love, the opportunities we ignore, the mistakes we make.

So, I ask them, "What kindness would a friend say they notice you doing?" This "back door" approach is more easily answered. A friend might say that you can be depended on to show up for her, that you build others up rather than gossip about them or tear them down, or that you often surprise others with flowers, a note, or phone call. Another prompt that helps in identifying your kind self is to be as specific as possible, and note that small kindnesses are often just as important as larger kindnesses. Kindness is love in action. How are you loving to others? Toward your pet? Toward a stranger? Your elderly neighbor?

Thinking about the evidence of your kindness is important to the growth of your soul. When you can SEE yourself as being generous, thoughtful, or compassionate, you are more likely to BE that way.

As we think about how we are kind toward others, we think less about ourselves.

And that is paradoxically a pathway to being more happy.

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