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6 Effective Ways To Bring More Kindness Into Your Life

6 Effective Ways To Bring More Kindness Into Your Life

Kindness is becoming rare and sometimes if feels as though we live in a very hostile world. We are more connected than ever these days with social media and the 24 hour news cycle, so it is easy to become saturated with the conflict, politics, poverty and discord of the world around us. For people who work in high needs care industries; doctors, nurses, emergency service personnel, social workers, criminal lawyers; or ordinary people who care for elderly or ill family members, life can become a cycle of stress and trauma and they can begin to suffer from compassion fatigue.

Whether it is from too much exposure to ‘bad news’ or too much exposure to the suffering of people around us, we can start to show physical, mental and emotional symptoms. There’s no denying that this type of negativity is bad for our health.

However, studies have shown that kindness and generosity are not only great for our health, they’re contagious and self perpetuating.

The more people are good to one another, the more both the givers and the receivers want to do it. Furthermore, altruism and empathy have been found in species other than humans. Biological altruism, whether conscious or not, is evident in animals and insects alike, especially those that have very well organised systems, like ants, for example.

So how do we strike a balance between giving and not giving too much? How do we live our lives in a way that enhances our humanity and our altruistic nature, without letting it destroy us?

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Juliana Breines, Ph.D from the Greater Good Science Center says that there are several ways to strike that balance. We must strive to feel connected and supported with one another thereby achieving ‘attachment security’. We can also wonder at the world and universe around us: revel in nature, indulge in our humanness and what it can achieve. Take ‘awe walks’ out in nature or sit in silence in a magnificent building, walk over a long bridge, lie in a meadow and stare at the clouds.

Similarly, kindness meditation and practicing mindfulness can help us to stay in the present moment and regulate our breathing and blood pressure. We must strive to turn benevolence into a habit by participating in random acts of kindness regularly and whenever possible.

We also need to learn when it is OK to say no and when it is crucial that we are kind to ourselves first as forced kindness is abrasive and counter productive. Establishing ways to acknowledge our shared identity by, for example, putting a face to human suffering; educating ourselves about what other people experience and understanding the reality of those less fortunate will maintain our connectedness and keep us in touch with the reality of our privilege. Teaching kindness to children is another way that we can maximize mutual empathy from an early age.

Kindness doesn’t have to be exhausting or a chore. Kindness as a concept is a way to bring generosity and positivity to others as well as ourselves.

Here are 6 ways to bring more kindness into your life:

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Smile

Smile as much as you can muster. Not just at others, but also at yourself. Look in the mirror and smile. Be conscious of your facial expression regularly. Sometimes we are just concentrating or thinking and we don’t realize that we are scowling. Engage in things that make you laugh; genuinely laugh. There is nothing more satisfying than laughing hysterically at something until there are tears and everybody knows that laughter is contagious.

When you are out and about, make contact with people by projecting a happy disposition. You don’t have to look deranged to appear happy. Just make the effort and before you know it, it will become a habit. Try this experiment in the presence of children. If you smile at them, they almost always smile back. Making a concerted effort to smile will lead to feelings of contentment, which in turn makes us smile more and will attract kindness.

Give

Generosity is underrated. Give your stuff away. We all have so much junk and everything has become so disposable. Don’t try to sell old furniture or electronic devices. You’re not going to recoup much of what you spent anyway because things depreciate. Just give it away. Clothes, kitchen and electrical appliances, children’s toys: give them away for free. There are plenty of classifieds that you can access to do this. You can also give them to a number of charities who will pass them on to someone in need. Bigger things like white goods and cars can be easily passed around to family, friends and neighbors. When it’s time to replace something and you can afford to buy the new item, count your losses and give the old one away.

Also, donate to charity. Make it an annual commitment. Choose a charity or two that you feel passionately about and give them a cash donation every year. It’s tax deductible and if you do this, give yourself permission to say no to any other charities you come across that request donations.

You can’t give to every single one (by all means if you can, then do so!), but having one or two charities or not for profit organisations that you adopt – ones that you learn thoroughly about what they do and who they help, perhaps even volunteer for, will contribute to those feelings of connection that enhance our propensity to give.

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Receive

Feel good about receiving. When someone offers help, take it. When other people show concern for you and offer advice, take notice. Giving yourself permission to receive openly has benefits that we don’t often acknowledge. Being a good receiver is nurturing for you and beneficial to the giver. People feel good when they are giving, just as you want to feel good when you give, so by receiving you are promoting the cycle of kindness. We often associate receiving with guilt. We don’t feel worthy or want to immediately give in return to even the score. Don’t feel obliged to do that. Simply receive without needing to do anything in return, just say thank you. Feelings of appreciation and gratitude are ways to experience kindness that we don’t often consider.

Talk

Use your words. Don’t be afraid of confrontation or judgement. Sometimes we have valuable information that we should share and even if it isn’t received well initially, that information may help someone as an after thought. Use your intuition and share your experiences. The more we talk to people about ourselves the more we form valuable attachments with other humans. Talking to one another is an opportunity to bond and mimic emotion, which is the core ingredient for empathy.

Striking up a conversation isn’t difficult; just being friendly is all that is required. Saying hello can become very hollow. Make your greetings genuine; really ask someone how their day is going and mean it, even if you’re both in a hurry. You don’t have to tell strangers your life story, but making eye contact, projecting affection and making a true human connection with people is invaluable. Especially if you don’t feel like it. The effort is its own reward.

Listen

As much as you talk, be quiet and listen. When people open up to you or have something to say, don’t just stay quiet in wait for your turn to speak. That is not listening. Actually hear what they have to say and respond accordingly. Your turn to speak will come if the conversation is balanced and genuine and if it doesn’t maybe what you think you had to say wasn’t that important this time around after all.

When you truly listen to people you fill your being with information to last you a life time. You never know when that wisdom will come in handy. Listening also teaches us to read between the lines. When we honestly listen to someone, we don’t just hear their words; we read their body language and their facial expressions. We learn to understand that which is unspoken and that is truly listening and connecting.

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Care

Showing real affection and paying attention to people you come into contact with is something we often do only superficially. We become so absorbed in our own needs that we fail to really care about others. Often it is a genuine act of self preservation, especially if we are suffering from the aforementioned compassion fatigue. However, if we realize that caring for others is really caring for ourselves and if we understand that we are all connected, we can bring more kindness into our lives.

Stay abreast of what is going on in the world; get educated and informed. Choose wisely when it comes to sources of information and comprehend the reality of what people around the world are experiencing. Understand what your privileges are and what your obligations to other living beings and the planet ought to be. Kindness is something we can afford to give across continents, to other species and to the environment.

Kindness should become a way of life. It doesn’t mean denying our negative emotions or letting people take advantage of us. It means always having the intention to contribute something positive; sometimes even in the face of adversity. With practice, the act of kindness becomes a habit and we get stronger in the process; it teaches us to discern when it is appropriate to be selfless and when it is necessary to be selfish. If the intention to be altruistic and help others is a genuine one, then the outcome will always be constructive.

Featured photo credit: chattanongzen via shutterstock.com

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Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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