Being kind: In theory, this is the easiest thing in the world, something you just 'know' how to do, or at least, that's what I thought. But about a month ago, I received an email from a reader who was asking me to help her to be more kind, and I realised that maybe, we do all need a little bit of help.
I hope that I am a good person. I am desperately working to ensure that I am, but is that second nature to me, or is that something that I've had to work on? Since receiving this email it's something that I've thought a lot about, and I have decided that it's a bit of both.
Early last year I made a video, sharing some of the online abuse that I've been the victim of, in a bid to remind people that I am a human being, with feelings, and that the words used by the so-called 'internet trolls', really hurt. I was imploring the perpetrators to be kind.
Since then I have found myself looking into and thinking a lot about the idea of kindness and really, sadly, I've worked out that in this day and age, it's not the easiest thing to do, particularly for girls, for various reasons:
There is more pressure on women than ever before.
This means that we are made to be competitive if we want to make it to the top where work is concerned. Chances are in order to progress, we are going to need to trample on at least a couple of people to get there. As a result, we often forget to look around and realise that what we are doing isn't necessarily kind.
I mean, hello?! We're the Instagram generation, what chance did we stand? When you 'follow' someone who is only ever sharing photos of her size six ass on the beach, we stop wanting to celebrate her beauty and instead find ourselves resenting her for having what we want.
The media invites us to be nasty.
Here's looking at the Daily Mail. In that online paper specifically, the articles are written in such a way ('ample assets', 'fuller figure', 'curves') that it encourages nastiness from the readers. Couple that with an anonymous, unmoderated comment section and we're doomed for failure. Working on the logic that if one person says something nasty, we can too.
The problem is, we just don't see enough kindness around us anymore. Since I've been alive, there has been a war or conflict of some kind going on, we live on social media and reality TV stars and politicians are making a living out of batting people down and bitching about them.
Every time I see a video or picture on Facebook of a random act of kindness, you can guarantee that the first comment will be something along the lines of "this has restored my faith in humanity". But why did it have to be restored? Where has it gone? Said commenters aren't wrong, I've probably said it once or twice myself, but why have I had to do that? Are we all now so used to seeing evil and selfishness around us that we have forgotten about the good entirely? Sadly it seems we are heading that way, so much so that a lot of us can't even be bothered to look for it anymore.
So what are we supposed to do?
Well, we need to start by LOOKING for the good in things again. A combination of our rush to judge someone on a first impression and a lack of perspective that we have in crappy situations (AKA missing the bus or getting rained on) means that we start being negative-nancys very quickly and end up replacing the kindness that should be there, with animosity.
Once we can acknowledge that the good IS out there, we need to start making it a constant in our brain. This can be done by filliping things in our heads in a conscious effort to be more kind. This isn't even about what we say, it's entirely about what we think. So, rather than looking at a woman running and thinking 'ooh, I wouldn't have worn those leggings if I were you', you force yourself to think 'good on her, that's actually really inspiring'.
After practise, you will have forced the good to take the forefront of your thoughts, and you will find kindness just seeping out of you. Even if it's just smiling at a stranger for no apparent reason, when previously you might have done your 'fuck off, I'm not necessarily better than you but I am going to look at you like I am' face will make a huge difference to both of you.
As Brits we can be quite awkward and blunt, and as girls we can be quite sensitive, and so yes, in theory, we are an accident waiting to happen. So with this in mind, it's even more important that we make a massive effort to say things that we wouldn't normally say. If you are proud of someone, tell them. If you saw a photo of a friend online and you thought that they looked really nice, take a minute to get in touch and say it, rather than just 'liking' it. If you like a stranger's outfit, tell them, because I can guarantee that it will give them a huge boost of confidence and give them something to smile about all day.
But before we get into any of that, and at the risk of sounding really super cheesy, it is worth remembering that it is very hard to be kind to anyone, until you are kind to yourself.
If you are constantly staring at your stomach and hating it, you'll begin to look for the flaws with other people's and if you hate your hair, you'll be scrutinising everyone else's and as a result, judging other people. You HAVE to give yourself a break.
It's a bit of a chicken and egg thing really. If you start being kind to other people, you'll start to feel happier, like a better person and if you start being kinder to yourself and feeling more positive on the whole, your happiness will become infectious and you'll spread kindness around like a cold.
It's not all about big gestures, it is the little things that really matter. We all work hard, we're all tired and we are stressed and the world really is a weird place, so kindness often does get sidelined and I'm not blaming anyone for that.
But isn't it time that a clip of one human helping another stopped being earth shattering news that needs to 'restore' people's faith in humanity, and instead just became part of the daily routine?
Nothing bad comes from kindness, it's like a drug that only does really really good stuff, that's totally free. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Oh and just a little note to the girl that sent me an email asking me to write this piece, I love that you got in touch, but the last thing you need is a lesson in how to be kind, you finished your email with the words "I appreciate your amazing work on this blog and all the support you give to women, you are an amazing person. I'm really glad you exist.", which is possibly the kindest thing a stranger could have said to me so thank you and never change! xxx