The term “Selfless Acts of Kindness” always left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Forcing yourself to be selfless, to me, always negated the selfless part. The implication is that you’re just a nice person, so doing nice things is just who you are.
While I still believe that to some extent, it’s not always easy to do. Similar to my 26-days-of-blogging mental-training, the “Selfless Acts of Kindness” is a way to re-program or re-learn who you used to be when you were a naive kid. Perhaps without the naivete, since you’re wiser and know better now. The reasons for being nice should still be there regardless of your age. My good friend Sara has a blog of her own Selfless Acts of Kindness. It’s a great thing to throw on your New Years Resolutions. Keep in mind, however, you can “Re-Program” yourself anytime regardless of the time of year.
If you were to be completely honest with yourself (which is very hard to do unless you’re masochistic, and even then you are doing it because you like it), you would find you aren’t as nice as you used to be. Maybe you were never nice. The mean bully in Kindergarten who forced play-dough and elmer’s glue down the kid-with-the-glasses throat. Maybe in High School you picked on that weird Witchy chick who always stared at you like she was cursing you. Maybe you are that witchy chick! Whoever you were, you probably had moments where you weren’t someone you’d want to be friends with.
Instead of assuming you could never be friends with yourself, you can change very easily. Perhaps with the 26-day personal retraining program, or however you normally change your habits or turn good things into habits. For me, I had to stop thinking of myself in terms of “ugh” and start thinking “I’m not so bad!” It was really hard not looking down on myself. Even now, I tend toward self deprecation. Even so, I actually like myself most days. Shrieking harpy days, not so much, but you can make up for it other days. Although the idea of “making it up” isn’t necessarily a good get-out-of-jail-free card, and certainly not one you should use constantly, it’s great to use as a one-off self forgiveness tool. Remember: don’t use it every day! Set it as a once-a-month or bi-monthly ticket, then forget about it. FORGET ABOUT THE TICKET. You don’t want to start relying on it instead of letting your emotions out through healthier outlets.
Perhaps as a side-line of my 26-days-of-blogging I’ll work on the other aspects of myself that I’m not as fond of. Selfless acts of kindness are tough for two reasons. The first reason is convincing yourself what you’re doing is kind. The second reason is actually doing the acts instead of rationalizing your way out of them.
Since this is a learning experience for me as much for anyone else, the steps I’ll outline are rudimentary at best. Please feel free to follow me on the journey! Self betterment and re-programming should never be done alone. Even if no-one around you is encouraging or doing it with you, you can still tell yourself (and your Personal Deity) how you’re doing, and enjoy the responses from those outside your circle as they realize there are still people in the world interested in something other than themselves.
To start with, there is one thing you have to do. It’s not something I’ve ever convinced anyone to do successfully. It’s monumental, private, scary and impossible. It’s that skeleton in your closet mocking you every time you think you’re succeeding. You have to do it anyway, and mean it. However you have to work your brain around it, figure it out and DO IT.
Look at yourself in the mirror. This should be your morning ritual, so make sure you do this every morning until it’s a habit. Mark your calendar for 26 days if you have to. Look at yourself in the mirror, smile, and say “You’re Awesome!”
Every person you meet, look them in the eyes and smile. Don’t offer anything suggestive, don’t come off as seductive or interested. This might be more difficult for men since it’s assumed they always have an ulterior motive. If you have to, practice your smile in the mirror so it doesn’t look leering. While you’re practicing, throw in a few “Sweet,” “Sexy,” or “Awesome!”s so you remember that you are great.
Even if you don’t work there or aren’t part of the team or whatever it is wherever you are, if someone looks lost or like they need help, ask them if you can help them. They may assume you’re an employee (or whatever), but that doesn’t matter. If you know where the Macadamias are, you can help them. If you don’t know, you can be the more pro-active person and get an employee’s attention to ask them. Some people are extremely shy and don’t know how to ask for help. They aren’t idiots, and even if they are, they deserve help too.
If you happen to be an employee, you should be doing all of this anyway. If you aren’t, you DEFINITELY need to follow this five-step re-program.
Stop what you’re doing periodically, whether it be as you’re walking or driving or bicycling. Don’t get in peoples’ ways or cause accidents, mind you, but just pause your mindlessness for a moment and look around you. It’s not always obvious (some people are shy or idiots, remember), but some people are trying to get over, get around you, or need help and are being ignored. It could be a car on the side of the road, or a woman who dropped her bag of groceries. It might be a chain that fell off a bike. Safely get over, allow people to get over, etc. Do what you have to do to help those people. Have you ever seen those sorts of things before? Did you even know some people don’t yell and scream or throw fits if something happens? Did you realize that most people aren’t going to ask for help? It’s very very true, but when they are helped, they are the most grateful people you’ll ever meet. Remember: Just because they can do things themselves, they’ll feel better if someone helps them. It’ll get done faster, too, which makes everyones’ day just that much brighter. So what if you don’t like packing popcorn? Who does? Even helping capture one piece of that nefarious foam can add five minutes to someone’s day.
Write about your day, every day. Every little detail you’ve noticed, from the way you’ve helped people to the way people have reacted to your actions. Even if you think you haven’t done a thing, if you go back in your mind’s eye and follow your day, you’ll notice the woman behind the counter at your favorite coffee shop smiles when she sees you. She doesn’t stare blankly at you anymore. What an improvement! It might be something even more subtle, like a discount you didn’t notice getting at the grocery store or restaurant. Sure, you gave them a bigger tip, but they reciprocated with a discount.
Life is about give and take. When we give or take too much, it becomes unbalanced. While unbalance is a great way to learn and grow, living in it for any length of time causes stresses that shorten our time on Earth. Enjoying the gift of life you’ve been given is the best way to show your Personal Deity how much you treasure everything. Exuding love of life, kindness, happiness or even contentedness makes those around you experience some of what you are. Sharing like that brightens everybody’s’ day and makes it that much easier to carry the burdens we haven’t figured out how to share.
Do it for yourself first. Be a little selfish. I don’t mean be narcissistic; that’s no way to live at all. By showing the people in your life how to be a good, kind person and love yourself, they’ll find their own peace and share it with others. Through small acts on your part, as selfless or selfish as they start out, you can make your life and our world a better place. Just think of it as recycling cans or cardboard boxes.