A sweetly surprising thing happened while I was in the bathtub last night, my body weary from life.
I washed my face and sunk deeper into the warm, lavender-laced water.
I thought to myself, gosh—I really enjoy my own company.
And this felt big. And it felt sweet.
This feeling doesn’t endure at every moment, and it’s not perfect. But to be able to truly soak in being alone…without feeling lonely; to be able to soak in solitude…and feel complete.
This is new. This is so different than alone time in the past, which was wrought with restlessness, tension, and unease.
My journey has circled and cycled. It has been raw and messy, exhausting and so damn lovely at times. It has been a kaleidoscope of deep wounds and shining gems all mixed together in my very-human skin. Some scars remain—lessons that have changed me and sprinkled a bit of wisdom into these bones.
But this is the thing I always come back to: be gentle with yourself.
And no, it doesn’t mean let yourself off the hook, be lazy, or irresponsible in life or in your relationships.
Instead, it gives us more capacity. More gills to dive deeper. To have boundaries. To taste incredible love. To enjoy life.
Be gentle with yourself.
Less pushing. Less criticism. Less harshness.
More sweetness, more nurturing—and most importantly, the courage to try to accept ourselves in any moment—even in the shattering, heart-breaking moments that aren’t pretty or lovely at all.
This gentleness, like many things, is not really quantifiable. But it is softly life-changing.
It has allowed me to embrace my own company. It has sculpted my relationship with myself to feel safer and sweeter. Then, when I connect with others from this full and nourished space, I am no longer pulled to relate in codependent or toxic ways.
Be gentle with yourself today.
Extend patience for a moment. Extend tenderness and understanding to your wounds (we all have ‘em). Extend non-judgment to your heart.
And yes, maybe we have heard the advice to be gentle with ourselves a thousand times. Maybe it has started to sound annoying, empty, and cliché. Maybe in moments, this all seems pretty damn privileged (it is—but that’s another topic, for another day). Often, it doesn’t sink it. Lists of how-tos are vague, leaving us numb and unsure how to change anything. And that’s okay.
Because how-tos are vague. And being gentle with ourselves, befriending ourselves—well, it is so intimate and personal.
It is not a race or a battle, but a slow-churning exploration. It often involves changing very little, infused instead with uncovering what we need and all we already have within.
For me, it shifts daily. Sometimes being gentle with myself means resting and feeling the warm sun kiss my cheeks. Sometimes it means encouraging myself to do yoga, drink more water, cheering myself on to complete a challenging task at work, or reach out to a loved one for support. Sometimes it means making sure I am eating healthy, sometimes it means splurging on a glass of velvety red wine and a succulent slice of flourless chocolate cake. Sometimes it means analyzing why I got triggered by something a friend said, sometimes it means reminding myself that I don’t need to fix a million things about myself at all.
Like life itself, like the ever-changing clouds in the sky—it is dynamic.
But I think this gentleness can best be found when we tune into our bodies.
Our instincts, our gut-level, intuitive knowing that words cannot capture, that someone else’s advice cannot touch.
Many of us have become disconnected and dissociated from our embodied selves, our flesh, muscle, and bone—and the act of reconnecting can be profound.
This may all seem a little vague or even mysterious. Maybe it is.
Perhaps it can be succinctly summed up in the powerful words my therapist said to me a few years ago: “Slow down. Feel your body. Just notice.”
Those words, damn…they still guide me home to myself.
By pausing and tuning into our bodies on a sensation level, we can more easily gauge what we need. How we actually feel. The flavor of our breath. The pulse of our hearts, the flow of our desires.
We can then make small, empowered choices that feel really yummy and self-honoring.
It can be simple. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work.
It can be a constantly evolving adventure of leaning in and learning what being gentle with ourselves means today.
For me, it means feeling deep into my lower belly and listening past the crest of frantic, busy thoughts. Right now, my body speaks in a hummed, thirsty whisper, telling me to savor a cup of tea and stare out my window at the whipping winter winds for a good, long while.