Updated: Oct 26
As I made my way through the world after my divorce, I was promptly informed by some people, that the world was a harsh place and that people are mean.
Don’t get me wrong, I face challenges like the next person, but I have to say that hasn’t been my experience. On the whole, people have been kind, sometimes even unusually kind. It’s something I am really grateful for.
They say that the world is nothing but a reflection of your own mind. Does that mean I am kind? Perhaps.
I recently got a tattoo on my wrist that reads ahimsa. It’s Sanskrit for non-violence and it reminds me one of the first tenets of doctor-patient care: first, do no harm.
Being non-violent or kind to others comes reasonably easily to me. It’s certainly not something I struggle with. Towards myself however, it can be an ongoing battle.
Notwithstanding my previous issues with self-harm, showing what I would call basic decency to myself, can be troublesome on occasion.
Let me give you an example.
I recently flew from Chennai to Nairobi via Sharjah. While in Sharjah, I bought a sandwich and a bottle of water. When I got onto the plane, I reasoned I had left the water, unopened, under my seat at the gate where I had been waiting to board.
I was really mad at myself. How could I do that? How stupid! What a waste of money!
I was flying with a no-frills airline, so buying a bottle onboard was just a dollar. But I wasn’t going to spend that money. I’d been so careless!
And yet I was thirsty.
The truth is, I’m not a careless person, I don’t waste money and I’m certainly not stupid, and yet what I was doing was a form of violence to myself. The thing that got me to stop, was thinking I would never do that to my children or anyone else for that matter - I would show them the appropriate compassion, and buy the damn water already.
It took me 20 minutes into the flight to relent. I put this down to the perils of being merely human.
I give this, arguably silly, example to demonstrate that most of us are so good at doing for others what we struggle with doing for ourselves. I see it in my patients all the time.
So the next time you mess up, whether you’ve crashed the car or spilt the milk, go easy on yourself.
We’re not errant children deserving of punishment (not that they “deserve” it either). We simply perfectly imperfect human beings trying our best to make it through the world.
A little bit of kindness can go an awfully long way.