The Healing Power of Kindness
I was recently invited to participate in a collaborative effort for survivors of trauma hosted by Jordann Alyce,
and when offered to select from a few questions to answer that were in theme with the event´s purpose, to connect and support each other during these uncertain times, I saw the question, "How are you showing kindness to others?"
I jumped on this question because kindness is something that I went out of my way to bring into my life. What do I mean?
As a survivor of childhood trauma, I grew up with the painful toxic belief that the abuse I suffered was my fault and that it was because I was a bad girl. It still hurts my heart when I think of myself as a child feeling that way. I carried that belief for a long time and it kept me isolated and disconnected from myself and other people. Feeling ashamed and bad about myself was what I carried with me all the time, doing my best to hide from the world.
When I started healing and learning about the impact of trauma, I learned that most of my identities were based on a false narrative and toxic beliefs about myself. So I set out to change them, not just in my mind or on paper but in practice. I wrestled with the steps to do this for a long time.
8 years ago, I had a mentor that helped me with the steps to do this. She shared with me that if I am not actively choosing to live out of the values and beliefs that I want for myself now, I will by default be living out of my fear or those beliefs/stories that I had to create to survive my childhood. This was a huge "aha" moment for me. It was the moment I felt that I could take my power back from the impact of the past and start to live out of who I knew deep down I was.
But where did I have to start? Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I loved people and animals. I just could not help it. But I stopped showing it when I believed I was bad, that I was responsible for bringing bad things onto myself. Now, armed with this new information, I wanted to bring the truth that I was a kind person back into my beliefs. I needed to remind myself that I was a kind person over and over until I believed it.
I started slowly. I wrote in my journal about the things that I was doing for myself and others that demonstrated kindness. I started looking for evidence. I was very good at looking for all the ways I was bad and worthless. So every time I would feel bad, I would trace back to where the lie came from. Yes, it was painstakingly slow at times but it was so worth it. I wanted to root out any toxic beliefs about the past and focus my energy on what I wanted now, who I wanted to be, and who I felt in my heart I already was.
A very small example was changing my email signature to reply as, "Kindly, Svava Brooks." This may not mean much to anyone but to me, this was my way of reminding myself who I am, and intentionally sending the warm energy of kindness to everyone that I corresponded with. It may sound silly to you, but I was nervous when I first started doing this. My body would be expecting someone to reply with a reminder that I was anything but kind, and my inner critic kept bringing up a list of evidence from the past.
I also wanted to focus on kindness once I learned the science behind it. Research on kindness confirms that it changes our hormonal state in our bodies. It activates the production of the feel-good chemical "oxytocin." This "love hormone" helps humans form trusting and social bonds with other people. As someone that had lived with toxic stress hormones for most of my life and struggled with trusting people, I knew this could also change not just the health of my body but how I felt about other people.
Kindness is an important part of who I am and my values. Embracing it and embodying kindness was life-changing and it has become the "why" behind most of what I do every day.
I would love to hear from you! How are you showing kindness towards others? And how you are showing kindness towards yourself? Share in the comments below!
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